A half hour after LSU’s 41-3 victory over Washington on Saturday night, as reporters waited for coach Les Miles to appear and the postgame news conference to begin, very little of the talk in the room had to do with the resounding win just completed.
Most of the conversation turned instead to an upset in the making.
Those waiting for Miles expressed amazement as they tracked live updates of Louisiana-Monroe’s late rally against eighth-ranked Arkansas, staying glued to their cell phones and sharing any change in possession or penetration of the red zone with their neighbor.
ULM went on to take a 34-31 victory in overtime when quarterback Kolton Browning scrambled for the winning score.
As much as a ringing endorsement of all things cliche about underdogs and point spreads, the upset by the Warhawks put an exclamation mark on what has been a memorable start to Louisiana’s college football season.
Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette, after joining LSU in qualifying for bowl games last season, already appear primed to match their 2011 success.
The Bulldogs opened Saturday with a 56-49 win at Houston, a game they led by 21 points with five minutes to play. The Ragin’ Cajuns blew past perennial Sun Belt Conference contender Troy behind backup quarterback Terrance Broadway, who stepped in for injured starter Blaine Gautier and directed ULL to a 2-0 start.
A week earlier, McNeese State made some noise in the FCS ranks by stepping up in class and knocking off FBS opponent Middle Tennessee.
Meanwhile, LSU rolls on.
Despite the dismissal of Heisman Trophy finalist Tryann Mathieu and the loss of All-Southeastern Conference tackle Chris Faulk to a season-ending injury, the Tigers looked like the kind of team Saturday that will once again have a say in the national championship race. LSU was utterly dominant in outgaining Washington by 252 yards — and could have piled it on even more if not for a handful of dropped passes.
That game had just ended when the biggest upset of the young season started to get interesting.
Facing an Arkansas team favored by 30 points, ULM rallied from a three-touchdown deficit after battering All-Southeastern Conference quarterback Tyler Wilson in the first two quarters and forcing him to the sideline for the entire second half.
The Warhawks triggered overtime when Browning connected with Brent Leonard on fourth-and-10 with 55 seconds left. They won when Browning scooted into the end zone with ULM trailing by three in overtime and again facing fourth down.
Never before had a team from the Sun Belt beaten an top-10 opponent. Only once had a Sun Belt team beaten a opponent in the top 25.
On a national level, the ULM victory had a March Madness-like appeal.
Back home in Louisiana, it provided the early highlight in what has the makings of another entertaining season across the state.