No. 5 LSU hosts riled-up ULM, QB Browning

Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning could not ignore

the sight of purple and gold LSU gear being worn by fellow students

on ULM’s northeast Louisiana campus this week.

”Seeing people that wear LSU stuff around campus kind of makes

me mad, personally,” Browning said. ”Honestly? LSU stuff? Why

can’t you root for ULM? I’m here to play for us and that’s all I’m

worried about.”

For Browning, a Texas native, it was a lesson in the extent to

which LSU occupies the hearts and minds of football fans in

Louisiana.

On Saturday, Browning will get more than his fill of purple and

gold when his Warhawks enter Death Valley to take on the

fifth-ranked Tigers. If the prolific dual-threat QB wasn’t

motivated enough, LSU also picked ULM as its homecoming

opponent.

”They want to schedule you for homecoming because they don’t

think you’re good or something,” Browning said. ”You got to come

out fired up and ready to play anyway, and that’s what we plan to

do.”

LSU (8-1) also ranks fifth in the BCS standings, but an upset to

a more than four-TD underdog could serious damage the Tigers

chances of locking up a bid to a BCS bowl game.

The Tigers also entered Saturday still alive in the SEC’s

Western Division race, pending the outcome of No. 2 Auburn’s home

game against Georgia. An Auburn victory would end LSU’s hopes of

winning the league, meaning the Tigers likely wouldn’t get into the

BCS title game, either, even if they win their last three games to

finish the regular season at 11-1.

”We have no control with how Georgia will prepare and play

Auburn,” LSU coach Les Miles said. ”The issue is all about us and

making us better and preparing for UL-Monroe.

”We recognize that the local schools are measured many times

against us, and we recognize that we’ll get their greatest effort.

We understand that is a part of competing for victory, and we

really enjoy the competition.”

This matchup against an SEC power and the flagship program in

the state is on one hand an opportunity ULM embraces. Yet it also

might be the last thing the Warhawks (4-5) need as they try to

become bowl eligible and be at their best for their remaining two

Sun Belt Conference games.

”At times, games like this, they’re high-emotion games for our

players because of the number of Louisiana players we have,”

first-year ULM coach Todd Berry said. ”There’s also that

possibility, just because of the physical nature of LSU and where

we’re at right now in terms of depth, that you could go into a game

like this and get beat up and not be able to finish strong in the

conference race.”

In any event, Berry plans to put his best on the field.

”You start trying to play the NFL thing in terms of, I’m going

to save them for this, you’re really sending a bad message to your

football team,” Berry said. ”You’re sending a bad message to your

fan base. You’re basically saying that we can’t be

competitive.”

ULM had a chance to go into second place in the Sun Belt last

weekend, but fell 42-35 in double overtime at Florida

International. Browning, a redshirt freshman, accounted for 409

yards in that game, passing for 339 and three TDs.

Miles said Berry’s offense is not a unit LSU’s SEC-leading

defense should overlook.

”Todd Berry has done a great job with their offense. He’s

always had a knack for moving the chains,” Miles said. ”He has a

very sound, fundamental way in which he attacks defensive

secondaries. We’re going to be challenged there without

question.”

Meanwhile, LSU’s offense, which has struggled with the passing

game, made strides in its victory over Alabama, highlighted by

Jordan Jefferson’s 75-yard TD pass to Rueben Randle.

”If we keep the play book open, we can be very good on

offense,” Jefferson said. ”We have to make sure we take steps

forward this week against ULM. The offense has to keep on

improving. From an offensive standpoint, we had a great game

against Alabama. We have to keep it going.”

ULM has played two SEC West teams already, losing both, 31-7 to

Arkansas and 52-3 to Auburn.

”We know that while we didn’t obviously come out ahead in those

games, we know some of the reasons why,” Berry said. ”Hopefully,

we’ve grown up to some degree. I can say this: The SEC West is very

good this year.”