We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. This week we’re chatting with Josh Farnsworth, a staff editor over at Underdog Dynasty, SBN’s blog for teams in the American Athletic, Conference USA, and Sun Belt conferences, along with independents. We talk about Louisiana-Monroe’s season last year, their offense and defense this season, and whether the Warhawks could give FSU a fight.
TN: After finishing 4-8 in both 2016 and 2017, the Warhawks finished 6-6 and 98th in S&P+ in 2018 and have opened the 2019 season with an impressive win over Grambling State. What led to UL-Monroe’s success last season and last week?
UD: His name is Caleb Evans and he is a dangerous man.
Evans has some dynamic playmaking ability through the air and on the ground, so as Evans goes, so go the Warhawks. Running back Derrick Gore and WR Marcus Green were huge pieces as well. But they are gone now, so getting the next generation up to task in big games will be interesting to watch.
TN: The Warhawk offense was quite good in 2017, finishing 27th in offensive FEI, per Football Outsiders. But last season they slid to 64th. Can you point to any reason for the slide, and do you expect them to bounce back this season?
UD: I think the slide had more to do with turnovers than anything. The offense pressed at times and it cost them. Two years ago, there was better ball control and more urgency. You can see some of that urgency resurfacing after 1 game.
TN: FSU’s defense unexpectedly struggled last week against a good Boise State offense, one led by a true freshman quarterback making his first ever collegiate start. Do you think ULM will have any success moving the ball against FSU’s defense this time around? If so, how will they do it?
UD: I think they will be able to move the ball early, especially between the 20s. If they can get the ground game going and work off of play action, that will do wonders for keeping the FSU pass rush honest. ULM also has a veteran offensive line that will not be intimidated so easy.
TN: After just a one-game sample size FSU’s offense looks to be predicated on the big play. Does ULM do anything on defense that could take that away? And if so, what?
UD: Truth be told, they are looking for defensive players to really reach the next level. They are returning 8 starters, so there is continuity and familiarity with the system. To disrupt FSU, it’s really about their edge rushers making the young QB uncomfortable early.
TN: Finally, what will you be looking for from the Warhawks in this game that might signal a successful season from ULM?
UD: A successful season in Monroe is a bowl game. It is real possibility. They qualified but did not get an invite last year. This team and fan base are hungry for one. I think a Sun Belt title game appearance is the ceiling and should be met with much praise if they do, but give em a bowl and they will be successful.
A big thank you to Josh for his insight and taking the time to chat with us. Head on over to Underdog Dynasty for your UL-Monroe coverage needs.