ULM fans survived a roller coaster of emotions to finally being able to breath a sigh of relief as the ULM Warhawks survived in Miami, FL over FIU 23-17 in overtime Saturday night.
On a night where the ULM offense struggled to get anything going, quarterback Kolton Browning threw a 15 yard touchdown pass to Brent Leonard to send the Warhawks (8-4 6-2) to victory.
The Warhawks go 3-1 in overtime games this season winning at then #8 Arkansas, losing to Auburn, then winning on the road at Western Kentucky and tonight over FIU.
ULM started the game hot driving the field and scoring on a 2 yard Browning touchdown run but wouldn't see the endzone again until less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
Senior linebacker and defensive player of the game R.J Young scooped a fumble up and rumbled 40 yards to break a 10-10 tie. Young also added 10 tackles for the ULM defense. As a team the Warhawks registered 7 QB sacks led by Emmanuel Jefferies two sacks.
ULM managed just 235 yards of total offense, their lowest output of the season by far. 226 of that came through the air and a season low 9 rushing yards on 27 carries (Browning 17).
The Warhawks picked up a crucial third and one conversion with a little over a minute remaining to all but seal the victory. In victory formation and a early gatorade bath for Coach Berry and Coach Reffett, the ball somehow was knocked loose and a scramble for it led to a recovery for FIU.
"From what I understand their nose tackle knocked the ball loose before the ball was ever snapped. As soon as Josh (Allen) wiggled it he knocked it loose, I have never seen it in all my years of coaching" - Troy Reffett.
Browning would later explain that it was his fault on the fumbled snap as he changed his cadence and the ball was snapped early.
Two plays later FIU Freshman quarterback E.J Hilliard connected with speedster Willis Wright for an unbelievable 58 yard hail mary to tie the game at 17.
Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett talked about the hail mary. "That is a coverage that is specifically used in two minute situations, and we had a guy just totally blow the coverage and turn the WR loose". "We should have had a guy at least 15 yards behind him as the ball was snapped".
ULM wide receiver Brent Leonard hauled in 13 of quarterback Kolton Browning's 31 completions for 98 yards and is now one catch short of breaking the all time ULM record held by former wide out Mack Vincent.
Browning finished with 218 passing yards on 38 attempts with one touchdown pass and one rushing.
The ULM defense blocked FIU's attempt at a field goal in overtime with a new package that was just installed this week according to Reffett.
"We finally got some guys that have some good length to then as well as good vertical jumps. I take out 2 safeties and put Jeron Hamm and Tony Cook in and just let them try to get a jump block".
Unless the two teams meet down the line in an out of conference game or bowl game, it was the last meeting between the two schools as FIU (3-9 2-6) is leaving the Sun Belt conference for C-USA next year.
The Warhawks hold a 6-3 series advantage since the two teams started playing each other in 2004.
With win #8 the Warhawks will now sit back and see which bowl invitation they will receive as they cap off their best season ever at the FBS level.
ULM will finished tied for 2nd in the conference at 6-2 with either Arkansas State or Middle Tennessee as they square off next weekend for the outright conference title.