Nearly a year ago, Louisiana-Monroe opened eyes throughout college football by starting the season with a 34-31 upset of No. 8 Arkansas in Little Rock.
Looking back, it's easy to dismiss the game.
Arkansas was coming off a tumultuous offseason that saw Bobby Petrino fired and John L. Smith brought back for a one-year trial.
After the shocking loss to Monroe, the Razorbacks dropped their next three games then lost four of their last five to finish 4-8.
But the upset the Warhawks pulled off a year ago can't be written off.
Monroe followed with two more games against BCS-conference opponents over the next 13 days. They lost both but put a scare into both Auburn (31-28 loss in overtime) and Baylor (47-42 loss at home).
The Warhawks went on to earn the team's first-ever bowl berth.
And it wasn't a senior-laden team that accomplished all that.
Monroe returns 17 starters, including quarterback Kolton Browning.
Browning earned Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year honors, throwing for 3,049 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also rushed for nearly 500 yards.
Browning helped lift Monroe to the Independence Bowl last season after a 4-8 season in 2011.
In the win over Arkansas, Monroe trailed 28-7 in the third quarter before coming back to force overtime
“Every team needs hope,” Monroe coach Todd Berry told the Monroe News Star. “Hope is a very, very powerful thing, and for our football team, when Kolton's back there, he creates hope. Hope is how you come back from 21 points down, when you get into overtime and your body's tired.
“You've gone through the physical abuse of what this game entails, hope is what kind of carries you through one more snap. If I just play one more snap, he's going to find a way to make a play.”
Continue reading this story on the...