Football team heads to Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday

WKU’s Antonio Andrews runs for a first down during their game against Navy at Western Kentucky University on Saturday, September 28, 2013. 

Elliott Pratt

October is here, meaning Sun Belt Conference play has arrived.

WKU (3-2, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference) will enter its Sun Belt season on a two-game winning streak after topping Navy at home 19-7 over the weekend.

The WKU defense held the nation’s No. 1 rushing attack to just 107 yards on the ground while senior running back Antonio Andrews moved into the lead in the NCAA for most rushing yards, all-purpose yards and touchdowns with 32 carries for 182 yards and two scores.

Andrews’ efforts earned him Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week honors as he moved into second place in career all-purpose yards with 5,321. For the second week in a row, senior linebacker Xavius Boyd was selected as the conference Defensive Player of the Week with eight solo tackles and a sack that resulted in a safety against Navy.

Boyd and the rest of the Topper defense hope to translate last week’s impressive stand against Navy as they prepare for Thursday’s game at Louisiana-Monroe at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

ULM (2-3) is a team that has struggled to move the ball on offense all season. The Warhawks have averaged 349 yards per game so far this year.

The Toppers enter the game with a bit of a chip on their shoulder from last year’s Homecoming overtime loss to the Warhawks. ULM quarterback Kolton Browning led the team from a 28-7 deficit to win it 43-32 in OT.

But ULM is without Browning for the rest of the year after he sustained a torn quad muscle injury in the team’s 31-14 loss to Tulane Saturday.

Sophomore Brayle Brown entered the game for ULM and went 10-for-18 for 133 yards and two interceptions against the Green Wave.

With Browning out at quarterback, ULM could play Brown or freshman Brian Williams, who ULM coach Todd Berry said has “grasped things very quickly.”

Browning’s absence will present a new look of the offense, but coach Bobby Petrino and company will look even beyond what Browning has brought to ULM’s offense.

“We just have to go on the history of what Berry likes to do,” Petrino said. “We do have some video with Brayle Brown in there and what they executed when he was in the game. It’s a challenge for us to really understand what exactly they are going to try to do, particularly on a short week like this.”

Berry and ULM have historically played close games against WKU. In the last three years, ULM holds a 2-1 advantage over the Toppers, with games being decided twice in overtime and a combined nine points.

With that, the two teams have formed a rivalry that some players have had a part in for many years according to ULM’s Berry.

“I think one of the interesting things about this game is we have so many guys that have been four-year starters for us and there is a significant number there,” Berry said. “At Western Kentucky, there is also a number who have been significant players for them for quite some time. We’ve had some really crazy games over the past three years.”

Berry said the Toppers are “physical” and show signs of the hard-nosed team that he expects.

Preparing for a short week doesn’t provide any extra advantage for either team, Berry said, but his quarterback situation could give WKU a bit of the upper hand.

“With both of us having the same amount of time, there’s not a huge advantage,” Berry said. “I’d feel a lot more comfortable in relation to our quarterback situation, which I think not only impacts a normal work week, but obviously on a short week creates a little bit more angst. “

Petrino called ULM’s defense “unique” in their different approaches and blitz schemes they present.

“There’s times when they have 11 guys within six yards of the ball and really gang on the line of scrimmage to stop the run,” Petrino said. “We’re just going to have to be real efficient, have some patience and keep running the ball in there and break some tackles when we run it.”