Sooners say ULM has full attention

NORMAN, Okla. — Facing a ranked opponent on the road to open the season is no big deal for Louisiana-Monroe, which has Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops concerned.

ULM struck a blow for the oft-overlooked Sun Belt Conference last season when the Warhawks waltzed into Fayetteville, Ark., and stunned then-No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in overtime.

They took another Southeastern Conference foe, Auburn, to overtime on the road the next week before losing 31-28, then threw a scare into Baylor before falling 47-42.

So when the Warhawks visit No. 16 Oklahoma on Saturday for the season opener for both teams, they don’t figure to be intimidated by a foe coming off a 10-3 campaign.

ULM is “a team that is very used to coming into stadiums in places like this and playing and playing well,” Stoops said. “They’re used to winning.”

ULM is opening its season against a ranked foe for the sixth straight year. The Warhawks have 17 starters back from a team that went 8-5 and played in the Independence Bowl, the program’s first bowl appearance since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1994.

ULM coach Todd Berry, an Oklahoma native who said he appreciates “the monster” that is Oklahoma football, said the Warhawks have long since stopped worrying about who and where they play.

“I think part of that mantra of ‘put a ball down’ that we’ve coined over the last few years, it doesn’t just speak to guys showing up and playing, it speaks to the opportunity to play,” Berry said. “If you’re a good player, you don’t care who you play, you just care about having the opportunity to play. I want our standard of performance to be such that it doesn’t matter if we’re playing a tremendous team like Oklahoma or the North Monroe Pee Wees, our standard of performance doesn’t change. The expectation of how we play doesn’t change.

“Obviously, they are heavy favorites. It doesn’t make any difference. Saturday, someone is going to put a ball down and whoever the real players are will show up.”