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Thursday, October 29, 2009
Troy and ULM is never an easy game

Posted by’s Graham Watson

Both Troy coach Larry Blakeney and Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie can remember last year's 51-yard field goal attempt like it was yesterday.

The ball from Troy kicker Sam Glusman seemingly stayed in the air for hours as it approached the crossbar and decided the game. A bounce forward and Troy wins. A bounce backward and Louisiana-Monroe has the upset.

The ball bounced off the crossbar and back into the field of play, giving ULM a 31-30 win. It’s lone bright spot in a 4-8 season. It gave Troy its only loss in conference play.

The missed kick was the final mistake in a series miscues by the Trojans. They missed three field goals in the game, turned the ball over twice and allowed a safety.

“Before that field goal at the end, we’d missed two field goals and given up a safety,” Blakeney said. “I’m not trying to make excuses, but that’s 11 points right there.”

This weekend’s game has more at stake than a year ago. Both teams are unbeaten in Sun Belt play and atop the conference standings. Troy has a one game lead because ULM stepped out of conference last week to play Kentucky.

The game against the Warhawks always presents an interesting challenge. Although Troy has won two of the past three games, ULM has made the game interesting in the second half.

“They’ve got a lot of strike power and I think the scheme that they offer is one that gives everybody problems because it’s a little bit unique and different,” Blakeney said. “And they’re good enough in the special teams that they can match you up. So, we feel like we’ve got to play our best game and I guess that’s the way it ought to be if you’re going to lead the league going into this part of the season.”

Troy and ULM rank first and second in the conference in scoring. The Trojans have the league’s best total offense, but Louisiana-Monroe ranks second in the conference in total defense.

“I’m hoping we can stay in the game with them, they’re a darn good football team,” Weatherbie said. “They’re a team that I think is as good as any team in our conference. They were picked to win this conference.”

While ULM still has five conference games remaining and Troy has four, this game will give the winner a great shot at the Sun Belt title and the New Orleans Bowl. Troy already has beaten Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee, two of the top competitors in the league, and ULM has a win over the Red Wolves as well. The only other team that could challenge for the league title is Florida Atlantic.

Troy has been one of the hottest teams in the country the past month and a half. After losing its first two games, the Trojans have rattled off five consecutive wins. But Blakeney doesn't want his team to get too confident. That was part of the problem a year ago.

“We’ve got a chance to be pretty good,” Blakeney said. “We’ve gotten better every week since we left the Florida Gators [after Week 2]. We’ve won five straight and gained a little confidence. Everything seems to be going a little bit better. But you can’t take a breather or you’ll wind up getting beat, especially against these guys. They’ve always been very good no matter where we play. It’s always been a tough game.”