Mid-major Report: Louisiana-Monroe takes down another major-conference foe
Last September, Louisiana-Monroe toppled then-No. 8 Arkansas in overtime, starting interim coach John L. Smith’s falling out with the Razorbacks. It’s too early to say whether the Warhawks’ 21-19 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday will lead to a similar result with Demon Deacons headman Jim Grobe, but Louisiana-Monroe now has a win over a major-conference opponent for the second year in a row. It’s poised to make a run in the Sun Belt once again.
It took the full 60 minutes for the Warhawks beat Wake in Winston-Salem, as the Deacs had a chance to tie the score with just four seconds remaining. However, Wake quarterback Tanner Price’s two-point conversion pass to receiver Michael Campanaro went low, sealing the defeat.
ULM punched the Deacs in the mouth early, utilizing a 20-play, nearly seven-minute drive to set the tone in the first quarter.
Warhawks quarterback Kolton Browning, the star of last season’s win over Arkansas and near-miss against Auburn (ULM lost 31-28 in overtime), came through against Wake, throwing for 315 yards and three scores. Browning also tossed two interceptions and averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt, but he was sharp during three sustained touchdown drives that broke the Wake Forest defense.
While the Deacs’ offensive ineptitude (Wake Forest is currently 116th in the Offensive S&P ratings) certainly played a factor in the outcome, ULM’s defense deserves some due. It held Wake to three-and-outs on half of its drives on the day.
This Saturday, ULM will match up with Baylor and its behemoth of an offense, and another upset seems unlikely. But the Sun Belt is completely up for grabs in 2013. By starting 2-2, the Warhawks just have to finish 4-4 in conference play to become bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year.
• Navy: A week after notching an under-the-radar win over Indiana, the Midshipmen crushed FCS-foe Delaware 51-7. Now, Navy has a bye week before traveling to face Western Kentucky on Sept. 28. Navy has averaged 398 rushing yards per game in its two wins, tops in the nation, and sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds is a throwback to the successful Midshipmen quarterbacks of old.
This offense tends to give opponents that haven’t been exposed to it previously fits. Navy’ schedule as an independent plays into its favor. This year’s slate is easier than in years past, and it’s not out of the question to think the Midshipmen could match or best last year’s 8-5 finish.
• Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch: He hasn’t had the eye-popping numbers we’ve come to expect after his sparkling season in 2012, but Jordan Lynch has now won 14 out of his 16 games as quarterback of the Huskies, and his leadership all but clinched NIU’s 2-0 start over Iowa and Idaho.
Against the Hawkeyes, the Huskies tied it up with a 33-yard pass from Lynch to Da’Ron Brown and kicked the go-ahead field goal with 10 seconds to play. The Vandals came out firing against NIU, which was coming off a bye week, and had the game tied at 35 early in the fourth. But Lynch stepped up, finishing with 152 passing yards, 159 rushing yards and five total touchdowns.
• North Texas: All hail the Mean Green, who toppled a pretty decent Ball State team Saturday thanks to a big advantage in the turnover battle. North Texas lost a close one to Ohio the week before, but the Cardinals were being talked about as a darkhorse candidate to win the MAC West division, and Pete Lembo’s team has depth and experience coming off a 9-4 finish a year ago.
North Texas draws Georgia next, and while that game could look ugly in the scorebook, it could give the Mean Green some good experience for the C-USA stretch run. The Mean Green avoid Marshall and East Carolina on their schedule and get Rice and Middle Tennessee State at home.
• BONUS: North Dakota State’s national spotlight: Just a few weeks after opening the season with an upset of Kansas State, the Bison have drawn College GameDay for Week 4. It might be thought of as a bit of a novelty in a down week schedule-wise across the board, but it’s a testament to NDSU’s recent success. The Bison have a supportive fanbase and a winning tradition, and it should be fun to see them host ESPN this weekend. It’s the first time GameDay has been to a non-FBS school since 2008, and I’m sure Fargo will be ready.
• Kent State RB Dri Archer: The Archer has looked very human to start his senior season. Hampered by injuries for much of the Golden Flashes’ first three games, Archer has been limited to three carries and one catch for 17 total yards, as Kent started the season 1-2 with losses to Bowling Green and LSU. Archer is an explosive athlete and a highlight reel when he’s on the field. Kent needs him there – and soon. If he and the team can’t get right, the Golden Flashes are in real danger of starting the season 2-5.
• FIU’s offense: The whole team made it into Three Down last week, but the offense deserves special mention after an abysmal performance in a 34-13 loss to Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. It’s an 0-3 start with just 23 points to show for it and a Saturday date with Louisville next.
FIU is 125th in FBS in scoring, 118th in rushing yards and dead last in the FBS in passing S&P. Hopefully Ron Turner has plenty of Alka-Seltzer to get him through the season. (hey, Alka-Seltzer feel free to sponsor the Mid-Major Report if you want).
• Massachusetts: It’s not entirely fair to slot the Minutemen down here considering they are still making the transition to FBS and their new home in the MAC. But a loss to Maine on the schedule and 21 points scored in the season doesn’t give a whole lot of hope that transition is moving quickly.
Barring a true upset, there are only two or three chances for wins on UMass’s schedule: home games vs. Miami (OH) and Western Michigan and a road date with Central Michigan. Chances are the Minutemen will finish 1-2 in those. A second-straight one-win season is likely, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.