January 20, 2019

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ULM Wins Shootout Over Coastal Carolina, 51-43; Improves to 2-0 in Sun Belt

By Paul Letlow

MONROE, La. – The original plan called for ULM to wear tribute uniforms, honoring the 1987 National Championship team Saturday night at Malone Stadium.

The Warhawks added another wrinkle though, emerging victorious in a 51-43 Sun Belt contest against Coastal Carolina reminiscent of their predecessors from three decades ago.

“We take the wins and we keep going,” ULM defensive back Roland Jenkins said. “A win is never going to be just straight forward. You’re never going to do everything correctly. It’s never going to be 100 percent. We’ll take it and move on to the next one.”

ULM improved to 2-2 and 2-0 in the Sun Belt for the first time since 2014.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to know that we can make mistakes and still pull it out,” ULM running back Ben Luckett said. “Not that we want to make mistakes, but it’s a big confidence boost to know that playing the way we did tonight, which was far from our best, we can still pull out a win.”

ULM fans will recall that the “Team of Destiny” in 1987 had a reputation for winning high-scoring games with plenty of twists. A defense that sometimes bent typically came up with the timely turnover.

With many of those 1987 players and coaches in the house, ULM borrowed a page from the history books. A game chock full of big plays on both sides kept the stat keepers busy in the Bob Anderson Press Box.

“It was a heck of a college football game,” ULM head coach Matt Viator said. “We are excited to win.”

Coastal (1-3, 0-1 in the Sun Belt) pulled within two points at 45-43 with 3:07 remaining on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Keane to Maxwell Kjosa.

After forcing a ULM punt, Coastal took over with 20 seconds left at their own 33. After two incompletions, Coastal fumbled after a catch trying to make something happen, and Caleb Tucker scooped and scored from 15 yards out with no time left on the clock for the final margin of victory.

The Warhawks scored 21 points off turnovers to offset a Coastal passing game that amassed 329 yards and four touchdowns.

“Probably the difference in the game was the two interceptions in the first half,” Viator said. “We turned both of those into touchdowns.”

ULM’s offense wasn’t particularly sharp but Luckett provided a spark with 127 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. The Warhawks didn’t have a turnover and limited penalties to four for 35 yards.

“We did some good things and we did some things that we will certainly have to correct,” Viator said. “The main thing is that we didn’t turn the ball over.”

ULM’s multi-purpose weapon Marcus Green provided another jolt with his 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

“It wasn’t a pretty win by any means,” Green said. “But we made the plays when we needed them the most and we came out on top. That’s all that matters.”

ULM opened the game with a methodical 12-play, 55-yard scoring drive. Craig Ford‘s 40-yard field goal gave the Warhawks a 3-0 lead.

Coastal dodged disaster after fumbling a kickoff late in the first quarter with a recovery at its own 2. The Chanticleers clawed out of that hole quickly too as quarterback Tyler Keane lofted an 86-yard touchdown pass to wide-open receiver Malcolm Williams, who caught the ball near midfield and raced toward the end zone.

The chunk plays kept coming in succession as ULM’s Green returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. Green fielded the kick, cut back right and outran the Chanticleers up the sideline.

Keane, Coastal’s designated passer, hooked up with Williams again from 27 yards out to conclude an 85-yard drive near the end of the first quarter for a 15-10 visitor’s lead.

Luckett’s 53-yard dash and a fourth-and-1 run by Derrick Gore highlighted ULM’s rapid response. Luckett barreled through the line from the 1 with 12:34 left in the half to push the Warhawks ahead 17-15.

After surrendering 149 passing yards in the first quarter, ULM’s defense came up with its first takeaway as Jenkins picked off Keane and returned the ball 17 yards to the Coastal 15. ULM converted the turnover into points two plays later, with Gore’s strong 10-yard touchdown run for a 24-15 lead.

Williams continued his receiving rampage with a 47-yard catch for Coastal, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run from Alex James. ULM led 24-22 with 7:21 remaining in the half.

The ULM defense came up with its second interception late in the half when linebacker Chase Day picked off Keane. The Warhawks converted again as Evans hit Sloan Spiller on a 20-yard touchdown strike for the 31-22 halftime edge.

“They were moving the ball but we got two turnovers and scored on them,” Viator said at halftime. “That’s the difference in the game.”

Luckett, a 5-foot-11, 229-pound power back, kept up the big-play theme in the second half as he made a 56-yard touchdown dash. Luckett gained 116 yards on his first three carries.

“It’s a great feeling,” Luckett said. “I know we have a bunch of backs. When my number did get called, I knew I had to be productive with it so I can be in the rotation.”

Keeping pace, the Chanticleers parlayed an 88-yard kickoff return into points on Marcus Outlaw’s 1-yard touchdown. Williams snared the 2-point conversion for the 38-30 margin.

Gore’s 1-yard touchdown took the lead to 15 at 45-30 with 5:31 left in the third. ULM needed just three plays to cover 50 yards, with Green’s 26-yard run setting up the score.

Coastal kept coming though, capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive with Keane’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Maxwell Kjosa. The Chanticleers missed on their 2-point attempt and trailed 45-36 with 14:52 left in the game, keeping them within striking distance to the end.

“Give Coastal Carolina credit,” Viator said. “We felt like they had some good skill guys coming into the game and they had a couple of really good schemes where they had us outflanked a little bit.”

Postgame chatter: “At the end of the day, I don’t think we did enough offensively. We’ll have to look at that. We were 2-of-11 on third-down conversions and that’s just the opposite of what we were last week.” – ULM head coach Matt Viator.

Enemy lines: Coastal wide receiver Malcolm Williams, a product of Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, set a program record with nine catches for 246 yards. He scored two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion.

Williams was the only Coastal player with a catch until late in the third quarter, catching the first eight balls for 249 yards.

Listed as the fourth-string quarterback, Chance Thrasher was the starter for Coastal. Thrasher limped off after rushing for 10 yards on his team’s first offensive play.

One of three Coastal quarterbacks to take a snap, Keane came in to complete 18-of-31 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns but was intercepted twice.

Up next: The Warhawks travel to San Marcos, Texas, for their next Sun Belt date with Texas State. Kickoff on Oct. 7 is 2 p.m.

The Bobcats fell to 1-4 Saturday with a 45-10 loss at Wyoming.

Tail feathers: ULM recognized members of the 1987 National Championship football team on the field at halftime and showed their highlight video on the scoreboard. … Green’s kickoff return for a touchdown was ULM’s first since Courtney Davis went 89 yards against Grambling State in 2013. … Nose tackle Tyler Johnson missed the game with an ankle injury after starting the first three contests. Red-shirt freshman Mason Husmannstarted in his place.   … Coastal came into the game averaging just 105.7 yards passing per game but passed for 149 in the first quarter alone.

About Andy Bryson 667 Articles
Founder of Louisiana Gridiron Football and football coach