A pair of teams that have helped to elevate the Sun Belt Conference into the national spotlight this season will square off in Murfreesboro, Tenn on Saturday as Middle Tennessee State (3-1, 1-0) plays host to ULM (2-2).
The Blue Raiders have rattled off three straight wins, including a pair on the road to Memphis and Georgia Tech, to rally back from a season opening defeat to McNeese State from the FCS ranks. The Warhawks will be looking to pick up their first win in Floyd Stadium since 2005, and chip away at MTSU's 9-3 all-time series lead. Last season's 42-14 win by ULM snapped a five game losing streak to the conference foe.
"We got a heck of a good ball team coming in here," Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill said. "Everyone's followed the success they've had and almost wins. They are really well coached."
While he sings the praises of his opponent, his own team has been lead to a surge by quarterback Logan Kilgore and running back Benny Cunningham.
Cunningham is third in the Sun Belt in rushing, averaging 6.6 yards per carry and 102.7 yards per game. This is far better than the 4.5 per carry average and 71.8 game total for ULM's Jyruss Edwards, who sits in the fifth slot.
Kilgore rates higher than ULM quarterback Kolton Browning, in passing efficiency, 162.43 to 139.26 respectfully. Both have a pair of interceptions, but Browning is far more dominating in total offense with more than 118 yards averaged per game.
"Last year he was a first year starter and he made some throws that he wishes he could have back," Stockstill said. "He's a more mature and confident quarterback than he was last year. He lost some help in the backfield last year and then some help upfront; last season we were just never healthy enough for him to gain confidence."
Just as Stockstill praised his junior QB, ULM Head Coach Todd Berry did the same of his three year starter.
"He was a freshman his first year and had freshman mistakes, but last year he broke his sternum and was playing injured," Berry said. "He was the most mobile quarterback that we had then and he had some of the intangibles even back then that we were looking for."
- Dating back to the final game of 2011 (at FAU, December 3), ULM has scored first in five consecutive games... All five scores have been touchdowns.
- The 35 points scored by ULM in the first half against Tulane last week were the most in a half since the club scored 35 in the first half against Middle Tennessee (November 12, 2011; W, 42-14).
- Prior to ULM's win in 2011, Middle Tennessee had won five straight contests in the series.
- The team to score first has won all but one game in the series. The only time this has not happened was in the 2009 game.
- The first ever Sun Belt Conference game was between ULM and Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders took the game 38-20.