Red Wolves aiming for three straight wins for first time since 2006 vs. ULM
The Red Wolves finally got over the hump last Saturday, defeating Western Kentucky in Bowling Green 26-24 on a last minute touchdown dive by senior running back Derek Lawson.
It was the first road win in conference play for the Red Wolves in their last seven tries and snapped a two game Sun Belt losing streak.
"I'm just thrilled about the level of excitement in the locker room," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday.
"I don't know if I've experienced a locker room with more joy than I did Saturday."
The win pushed the record of the first year head coach to 3-2, the best start through five games for ASU since 2008, when they started 4-2 on their way to a 6-6 season.
"Now we've got to accomplish another task that hasn't been done around here in awhile and that's win consecutive road conference games," Freeze said.
The Red Wolves will get that chance this Saturday against the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe.
ULM (1-3) is coming off a bye week that followed a 45-17 defeat at the hands of the University of Iowa.
That makes ULM the second straight opponent the Red Wolves will face that is coming off their bye week.
All three of Monroe's losses have been to teams that have been in the Top 25 at some point this year: Iowa, Florida State and TCU.
Their one win came in week 2 on Sept. 10 against Grambling State, when the Warhawks came out on top 35-7.
Despite those three losses, ULM still has one of the best defensive units in the Sun Belt Conference.
"Those teams were able to make some big plays on [ULM]," Freeze said.
They're still number two in the conference in total defense behind our guys."
The game will be a match up between an Arkansas State defense that averages 340.6 yards allowed per game.
It also ended Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey's eight game streak of consecutive games with a 100-yard performance.
"Our defense has been very stingy against the run. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and hopefully that will continue," Freeze said.
Monroe's defense, which averages 345 yards per game, used the bye week to recover from injuries sustained during the first four weeks of the season.
"This off-week came at a really good time for us. The TCU game was a very physical hard-hitting game.
There were a lot of people that went down on both teams," ULM second year head coach Todd Berry said.
"It's hard to stay up emotionally for that long and play on that emotional high."
ULM will have to stop a passing game that has senior wide out Dwayne Frampton and juniors Taylor Stockemer and Josh Jarboe ready to be unleashed at any time.
Frampton comes off a nine catch, 126 yard performance against Western Kentucky and leads the Sun Belt at 6.8 receptions per game.
Frampton, Stockemer, and Jarboe currently rank among the top-10 receivers in the Sun Belt in reception yards per game.
Dual QB Threat
ULM is coming off a 5-7 season in 2010 where the Warhawks finished with a .500 record in Sun Belt play at 4-4.
The Red Wolves and Warhawks faced each other in Jonesboro last year in week two, with ASU coming out on top 34-20.
ULM also started last year with a 1-3 record before winning consecutive games.
"I think we're better right now than we were at any point last year," Berry said.
"Some of that has to do with maturity, and some has to do with schedule and who we play."
ULM returns the most players in the Sun Belt from last year, behind only Florida International.
"We haven't seen a team that is as committed to the pass as they are," Freeze said.
They have an excellent quarterback in Kolton Browning and really nice receivers," Freeze continued.
Browning has thrown for 571 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 114 attempts.
Those low numbers come from Browning sharing action under center with junior quarterback Cody Wells.
Wells has thrown for 251 yards and two touchdowns and has an efficiency rating of 168.95 percent through the first four games.
"The one thing I'm encouraged about Kolton and Cody, is their ability to transition week in and week out," said Berry.
"We've seen some different styles of defense. Our offensive line has progressed really nicely, better than I could have hoped honestly."
ASU leads the all-time series between the schools 18-14. The record since the formation of the Sun Belt is still in ASU's favor at 6-4.
However, ULM leads the SBC series at home in Malone Stadium with a 3-2 record.
A win Saturday would give ASU four wins on the season and would equal their win total from the last two seasons.
The Red Wolves have put one obstacle behind them with the close win against Western Kentucky.
Now it is time to take the lessons learned from it as the Sun Belt schedule gets tougher with each passing week.
"I think that we can probably learn more maybe from this type of win and it may boost our confidence and our belief in ourselves more than winning by two scores," Freeze said.
ASU will kick off against the Warhawks Saturday at 6 p.m. in Monroe, Louisiana.
The game can be heard on 107.9 FM.
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