Frank Hoffmann has been calling University of Louisiana Monroe games for 37 years. Bearstruth caught up with him for his thoughts on the upcoming match-up.
Bearstruth: What is the mood in Monroe about this team? I know you have had some really good teams in the past but to play as well as you did against two of the traditional powers in college football has that instilled a ton of confidence in the program and town?
Hoffmann: The mood is wonderful. We have not had a winning season since going 1-A in 1994. We have had some excitement, including beating Alabama in 2007. Haven't had a home game this year, but expect a huge crowd, because we're playing, but also, frankly because Baylor is playing. We don't get a lot of those quality teams at home. Our most exciting history is 1987 when we won the 1-AA national championship with Stan Humphries as our QB. That team by the way is being honored this year in their 25th anniversary. Yes, we are excited about 2012.
Bearstruth: Baylor plays at one of the fastest paces in college football. Last year they were fourth in the country in total plays per game. For some teams without quality depth, this has given Baylor an advantage late in the game. During Baylor’s six game winning streak at the end of last year, they outscored opponents 195-97 in the 2nd half. This year Baylor has outscored opponents 73-24 in the 2nd half. I’ve noticed ULM has held a huge time of possession edge against Arkansas and Auburn. Is this intentional? Do you expect more of the same against Baylor- making sure to use a lot of the play clock to keep Baylor’s offense off the field?
Hoffmann: We know Baylor, and what they have done and can do. As a fan, I'm disappointed in a way I don't get to see RGIII, but in another way, I'm glad he won't be here to play against us. (He's already had his success against the Saints) Our time of possession advantage in the first two games was, in my opinion, because we were a better football team. Neither of those offenses however compare to Baylor. We are able to play up tempo at times, and at a slower tempo at other times.
Bearstruth: Both teams have run very well- much more impressive for ULM considering the quality of opponents. Do you see the key to this game being who is more effective in the running game? What should Baylor fans know about ULM’s offensive line and Edwards and Bailey as running backs?
Hoffmann: ULM can run the ball, but to win, we have to have Kolton Browning have a great game. He really is a talented QB and he really is the key to our success. We will obviously need balance, but if ULM beats Baylor, Browning will have to have a big game.
Bearstruth: Baylor is a slight favorite early on but many will be picking ULM to win this game. Some teams struggle with having a target on their back after being the underdog in so many games. How do you think ULM will handle the pressure of a Friday night ESPN game before a sold out crowd?
Hoffmann: Our first 3 games have been televised, and were of course big games against quality opponents with sell out crowds. The amazing thing about Ark and Auburn was that ULM was the team with confidence. These kids were never intimidated and looked like the Southeastern Conference team in both games more so than their opponents. Can't explain it, but its true. Much credit to ULM's coaching staff.
Bearstruth: Do you expect an old fashioned shootout here? Kicking game looks suspect for both schools. Do you think there will be more 4th down attempts inside the 40 than normal given the proficiency of both offenses and the lack of confidence in the kicking game?
Hoffmann: I hope its an old fashioned shootout; not just Baylor doing the shooting. I have to believe our kids will again be confident, but I also think Baylor will the best team we have played so far. Going for 4th downs is fairly common for the Warhawks and Coach Berry. Never let that surprise you. Our kicking game is suspect, but hopefully will come together for the Bears.
With all that said, we are really excited about this game, and having a team of quality like Baylor coming to Monroe. We hope you guys have a great trip and a great game with just one exception. Hope you get your first loss. With that said, we look forward to you guys being in Monroe. See you Friday.