by: Alex Welch
The Florida Atlantic Owls (1-4) travel to Monroe, La. for a Saturday night matchup with the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks (3-2). CSS will provide the coverage with Ken LaVicka and Jason Pugh calling the game from the booth. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET.
2012 started out on one of the highest notes in school history for the Warhawks when they took down No. 8 ranked Arkansas on the road in Week 1. The following Saturday they nearly defeated another SEC powerhouse in Auburn, just barely losing 31-28 in overtime. After losing to Baylor by only five points in Week 3, the Warhawks have put together two straight wins by a margin of 94-27.
FAU hasn't fared quite as well so far. After opening the season with a 7-3 win over Wagner, the Owls have dropped four straight games. Two of those matchups came against Georgia and Alabama, so they've already faced some of the elite talent around the FBS. With only nine seniors on the roster, head coach Carl Pelini is still in the process of attempting to rebuild this program.
These two squads have faced off eight times in their history, dating back to 2004. ULM currently leads 6-2 having won in each of the past three seasons. Last year's contest ended up in a 26-0 blowout, but the two games prior were only decided by a total of five points.
The Owls need a win to avoid starting out 0-3 in conference play, while the Warhawks look to stay undefeated within the Sun Belt. Let's take a look at what you should watch for this weekend.
1) Putting points on the board has been a struggle for the Owls. They're only averaging 13 points per game through five weeks. Quarterback Graham Wilbert enters Saturday with five touchdowns and a passer rating of 123.3, but while he's been efficient, the offense is still struggling to move downfield at times. His 5.96 yards per pass attempt show the Owls keeping it conservative through the air.
2) Running back Damian Fortner leads FAU in rushing with 240 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He averaged an impressive 5.8 yards per carry against UGA. He needs to stay involved as much as possible.
3) The Owls defense is yielding 434.6 yards per game to opponents, but don't pay too much attention to these inflated statistics. After playing UGA and Alabama it's tough to take those numbers seriously. Florida Atlantic only allowed 307 yards to North Texas last week.
4) Florida Atlantic has only picked up 78 first downs through the first five games, nearly half of the total for ULM. The Owls have also scored a touchdown on just 6 of 13 red-zone visits. They have to take advantage of the chances they get near the goal line.
5) The Owls are the least penalized team in the Sun Belt Conference this season, drawing just 36.4 penalty yards per game. This may be a young team, but Pelini has fostered a disciplined group.
6) ULM ranks 13th out of the entire nation in total offense, averaging 514.60 yards per game. The Warhawks put up nearly 40 points each week. Their 63 points scored against Tulane on Sept. 29 were most ever since moving up to the FBS in 1994.
7) Leading the way on offense is junior quarterback Kolton Browning, who is passing for close to 300 yards per game right now. With 1,459 yards, 136 completions and 12 touchdowns on the year, Browning is on pace to set career-high marks in multiple passing categories. ULM is 2-0 when throwing for 300-plus yards.
8) Along with the huge passing numbers each game, ULM is dominating opponents on the ground as well. As a team the Warhawks are racking up 198.2 rushing yards per contest. Junior running back Jyruss Edwards leads the way with 374 yards and six touchdowns on 81 carries.
9) Opponents have converted only 24 of 65 third downs against the Warhawks, while ULM is converting 52 percent of the time in these situations. This has been vital to their success so far in 2012.
10) The Warhawks continue to thrive when they have a commanding advantage in time of possession. Against Arkansas they controlled the clock to take nearly 20 minutes longer on offense than the Hogs. Last week they set a season-high mark by holding the ball for a total of 39:54.