Cats are on upset alert

ccosby@herald-leader.comOctober 24, 2009 

Louisiana-Monroe isn't your average, everyday hyphenated school.

Not only have the Warhawks been around the Southeastern Conference block a few times, they've been able to stand toe-to-toe with the big boys on more than one occasion.

In 1994, ULM, then known as Northeast Louisiana, came to Commonwealth and knocked off Kentucky 21-14. In 2006, UK had just clinched its first bowl berth in six seasons with a win over Vanderbilt but needed a late stop by Jeremy Jarmon on a two-point conversion to escape with a 42-40 win.

The program picked up perhaps its biggest win in school history in 2007, when it went to Tuscaloosa and stunned Nick Saban and Alabama 21-14.

This year's version of the Warhawks is no slouch, either. ULM is off to a 4-2 start with the only losses on the road to Texas and Arizona State. Several times during the week, Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks called ULM a "real football team" and referred to Saturday's contest as a "real football game."

When asked what he remembered from the 2006 game, Brooks said, "Hanging on to my fanny."

"We could not stop them," Brooks recalled. "The quarterback (Kinsmon Lancaster) ran all over the field. They had over 500 yards of total offense, but we kept coming right back for scores. We're not as explosive now as we were then, so we need to make sure we keep them in check."

ULM has had 10 days off since a 16-10 win over Arkansas State, and it will be breaking in a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Cody Wells, who will be making his first career start in place of the injured Trey Revell. Wide receiver Darrell McNeal could also line up at quarterback in ULM's version of the Wildcat formation.

"They've had quite a bit of time to adjust to that, but what we've seen we may not get," Brooks said of ULM's quarterback situation. "Just like we don't feel as comfortable without our starting quarterback, I'm sure they don't either. It'll be a challenge for them, and we'll have to wait and see how they handle it and what they'll do."

Louisiana-Monroe runs a diversified offense that includes three-, four-, and five-receiver sets along with some spread option. ULM Coach Charlie Weatherbie said he is confident Wells will be up to the task.

"He's a guy that's a very good leader," Weatherbie said. "He won a lot of football games as a high school senior. He came from a very good program in Spain Park in Hoover, Ala. He's a very good passer — very accurate passer. He can move around well enough to get out of trouble, so he was a guy that we felt like could do what we wanted to do offensively."

The Warhawks also run an unorthodox 3-3-5 defensive scheme and are particularly stout against the run, ranking 12th nationally.

The Cats are in position similar to the last time ULM visited, fresh off what could be a season-turning 21-14 win at Auburn last week. That fact has Brooks a nervous wreck, but the UK players say there won't be a letdown.

"It's always in the back of your mind, but I'd like to think we're past that point," senior defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "I think we're old enough and mature enough to refocus, and last week means nothing if we don't get this one this week."

Louisiana-Monroe

Coach: Charlie Weatherbie (Oklahoma State graduate, 1977), who is 29-47 since starting at ULM in 2003; previously coached Utah State (1992-94) and Navy (1995-2001)

Nickname: Warhawks

Conference: Sun Belt

Notable victories: Beat UK 21-14 in 1994 in its first year in Division I-A, when school was known as Northeast Louisiana (name was changed in 1999); beat Alabama 21-14 in 2007

Famous alumni: Country singer Tim McGraw; pitcher Ben Sheets and former pitcher Chuck Finley; announcer Tim Brando; former NFL players Stan Humphries and Marty Booker.

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