By Paul Letlow, ULMWarhawks.com Online Columnist
MONROE, La. – An excited group of offensive coaches surged into the elevator at Malone Stadium Saturday evening as the waning seconds ticked off the clock in ULM’s 45-31 win over Georgia State.
There’s no better joyride for a coach than descending from the press box to join a victorious team on the field. For offensive coordinator Matt Kubik, this was one of those special nights that make a week of preparation worth savoring.
“Watching Georgia State in previous weeks against some common opponents, we knew they were pretty explosive with (quarterback Dan) Ellington and the tailbacks,” Kubik said. “We’re ready to try to score as many as we can every week. This week, it worked out where the defense got some stops, we got on the board and it was good to see.”
The Warhawks (4-5, 3-2) were balanced as a ballerina in their attack against the visiting Panthers, rushing for 299 yards and passing for 291 on their way to 590 total yards. ULM collected 28 first downs, punted just two times, converted 9-of-15 third-down chances, were 1-for-1 on fourth down and scored on five-of-six red zone opportunities.
Running back Josh Johnson carried 20 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns and topped 1,000 yards for the season to reach a major milestone in his breakout campaign.
“I’m really proud of Josh,” Kubik said. “He was a guy we thought was capable of that when he got on campus last year. He’d be the first one to tell you that he was a little bit out of shape and there was a learning curve getting here as late as he did. But all through the spring, all through the summer, he just worked his butt off. I’m so happy for him. He’s become our bell cow there in the backfield.”
Johnson recorded his fifth 100-yard game of the season while becoming ULM’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Frank Goodin (219 rushes for 1,126 yards and 13 TDs) in 2009. Through nine games, Johnson has 1,017 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 157 carries in 2019.
“I feel like I’ve got one of the best offensive lines in the conference,” Johnson said. “I’ve got to credit Coach Kube for trusting me and calling run plays. I’m really kind of speechless right now.”
Record-breaking quarterback Caleb Evans, playing his next to last home game, delivered another of his prototype performances with 110 rushing yards, 291 passing yards while accounting for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).
“Me and Caleb were talking before the game,” Johnson said. “We were going back to the Arkansas State game. We were like, ‘if they stop you, I’ll be open. If they key on me, then you’ll be open.’ That’s what kind of thing it was tonight. We both were clicking.”
More and more each week, ULM is bringing its young receiving corps into the fold. On this night, it was Zach Jackson leading the way with five catches for 91 yards. In all, Evans found eight different targets while completing 24-of-32 passes with one interception.
“At times, these guys have done a great job this year,” Kubik said. “It’s all about experience for them. It’s all about confidence for them. It’s something that we talk about all the time with those young guys. They just have to keep plugging and have short memories.
“Caleb’s done a great job taking those guys under his wing and working on the fundamentals of it and talking about the mental aspect of it. Before the game, I saw him talking to Zach out on the field and telling him, ‘Just keep your confidence up.’ Last week, there were a couple of 50-50 balls that I thought we could have made some plays on at receiver.”