AUBURN – Louisiana-Monroe’s 3-3-5 defense is built to stop the run. The Warhawks led the Sunbelt Conference in rushing defense last season and are on top again this season. In their opener, they held Southeastern Conference power Arkansas to 99 yards on the ground and stayed close until the fourth quarter in a 31-7 loss.
But ULM coach Todd Berry said Saturday’s game against No. 11 Auburn will be a different kind of challenge. The Tigers put up 334 yards rushing last Saturday in a 35-27 win over South Carolina, which had the SEC’s top rushing defense.
Containing quarterback Cam Newton, who leads the SEC with 121.3 yards per game, is the mission.
"He's a very, very aggressive runner, in the sense that instead of running out of bounds, he's going to try to run over you,” Berry said. "That's unique right now at quarterback in college football. When you're that size, you feel like you can do some of those kinds of things to some of those small defensive backs, so we're going to have to do a great job of tackling him and containing him.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY: With praise coming his way from all directions, Newton said Tuesday he has plenty of help in staying humble. And no one keeps a closer watch on him than Kristi Malzahn, wife of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
“Miss Christy!” Newton said. “What doesn’t she do? She always texts me on a consistent basis, ‘What are you doing and this and that.’ I like it. She’s one of the most honest people on this earth, in my opinion. She’s always telling me what she thinks I should do and always giving me her opinion. I need that. … I love her and really appreciate everything she does.”
TAKING COMMAND: There came a time in last Saturday’s victory over South Carolina that Auburn’s offensive linemen knew they had taken control. The Tigers were playing at the fast pace Malzahn loves, and the Gamecocks were fading.
“Once you get it going, you see the defensive guys arguing with each other, not even getting in a stance, looking over to see what the defensive call is when we are calling the snap count,” left tackle Lee Ziemba said. “There’s not a better feeling. You forget about how tired you are.”
Said senior center Ryan Pugh: “That’s why you play the offensive line. Well, it’s not why we play. We don’t really have much other choice of positions. It’s fun. With such a close group and a great coach like Coach (Jeff) Grimes, we really enjoy playing together.”
WISNER CLEARS WAY: Walk-on senior Jay Wisner didn’t catch a pass against South Carolina, but no Auburn receiver has gotten more praise.
When Emory Blake turned a short pass into a 12-yard touchdown, Wisner was leading the way.
“That was a point of emphasis,” Malzahn said. “We tried to get better blocking on the perimeter. Emory made a good run, but Jay blocked his guy all the way into the end zone.”
REALISTIC WARHAWK: Junior cornerback Nate Brown, a leader on ULM’s defense, knows what it’s like to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He got his first start there in 2008.
"I was one of those freshmen that went out there star-struck to a point," Brown said. "The thing is, when you have played in these games, you know the atmosphere. You know how things turn out.”