The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 14th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks of the SEC will attempt to knock off the UL-Monroe Warhawks, a team from the Sun Belt Conference set to open its season.
In December, ULM announced Todd Berry as the program's 14th head coach. Berry, who was the program's offensive coordinator from 2004-05, spent the last three seasons calling plays at UNLV. He inherits a club that is in a rebuilding mode, as the Warhawks split their 12 games a year ago. Few starters return on defense for ULM, and while the offense is a bit more experienced, there is no doubt that the squad enters this opener as a huge underdog.
As for Arkansas, it began the campaign with a 44-3 thrashing of Tennessee Tech, an FCS squad.
"I like the way we came out of halftime, because we started to settle down and run the ball better," said coach Bobby Petrino after the triumph.
Petrino is in his third year at the helm at Arkansas and has obviously made an impact in a short time considering the team came into the season with its highest ranking since 1990. The Razorbacks went 8-5 overall in 2009, including posting their first bowl victory since 2003, a 20-17 win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.
Arkansas has won all eight of its previous meetings with UL-Monroe, the most recent of which took place in 2008.
It will be interesting to see who starts and finished the game at quarterback for ULM. Trey Revell was the starter last season and ranked third in the Sun Belt in passing efficiency. The 6-4, 222-pound Revell is a dual threat, throwing for 1,739 yards and rushing for 311 more last year, but a late-season slump and thumb injury has opened the door for redshirt freshman Kolton Browning. The frosh showed enough in the spring to be considered the lead candidate.
"This is pretty much a quarterback driven offense and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on those guys intellectually in what we are asking the quarterback to do, in relation to what they have done in the past," said Berry.
The key player for the ULM offense is tailback Frank Goodin, who is less than 900 yards shy of becoming the program's all-time leading rusher. The 5-9, 211- pound Goodin earned Second Team All-SBC honors a season ago, rushing for 1,126 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Using a 3-3-5 scheme, ULM boasted one of the best defensive units in the Sun Belt last season and ranked 44th nationally in total defense (347.0 ypg). Seven starters are now gone, leaving the Warhawks with a major rebuilding project.
"We don't care who plays, we are going to put the best players out on the field based on what fits our system," stated Berry.
The Warhawks welcome back only a single starter along the defensive line, but he is a good one in Troy Evans. Only one starter returns to the linebacking corps as well, but the secondary is a little more settled with two starters and some experienced depth welcomed back. Safety Darius Prelow has all-league potential and he started to emerge as a force last season.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett began his 2010 Heisman campaign in style against Tennessee Tech last weekend, completing 21-of-24 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
"The first win is always the toughest one," said Mallett. "You never know what to expect the first game out. Tennessee Tech did some things well in the first half, but we were able to adjust in the second half and played really good defense."
Ronnie Wingo Jr., Dennis Johnson and Broderick Green each had a score on the ground while Joe Adams finished the game with six catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Arkansas totaled 519 yards of offense in the clash, but the level of competition obviously wasn't up to SEC standards.
Defensively, Arkansas limited Tennessee Tech to 79 rushing yards on 43 carries, an impressive showing by any standards. The pass defense was solid as well, allowing just a 50 percent completion rating. While the Razorbacks did fail to come up with a single takeaway, they posted a pair of sacks and battled for four quarters.
Expect Arkansas to cruise to another easy victory last season. Mallett may very well be the best quarterback in all of college football, and he has as good a chance of winning the Heisman Trophy as anyone at this point.