MONROE (AP) —Louisiana-Monroe proved it could play with some of the big boys, and it didn't stop there on the way to a historic year.
Ohio also built on the momentum from its memorable start to reach the postseason for a fourth consecutive time.
The Warhawks and the Bobcats, teams that pulled off big upsets in 2012, meet for the first time today in the Independence Bowl.
Louisiana-Monroe (8-4) opened the season with a stunning 34-31 win over then-No. 8 Arkansas on Sept. 8. Though the Razorbacks proved to be vastly overrated, the Warhawks went on to show they could indeed compete with bigger programs, losing to Auburn and Baylor by a total of eight points in the following weeks.
ULM then went 7-2 to close the regular season and earn its first bowl appearance since joining what would become the FBS in 1994.
"We are very excited that the hard work of the team and the staff have been noticed," coach Todd Berry said. "To have a historic season culminate in a bowl such as the Independence Bowl is extra special."
Despite missing almost two full games due to injury, Kolton Browning has thrown for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns with seven interceptions. The junior has also rushed for a team-best 441 yards and seven TDs.
Browning suffered a foot injury against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 3 and missed the next contest at Arkansas State. The Warhawks dropped both contests -- the only losses in their final nine games.
Junior Brent Leonard has emerged as Browning's top target, ranking seventh in the nation with 97 catches for 1,042 yards and 10 touchdowns.
ULM, averaging 35.5 points, will try to take advantage of an Ohio defense that allowed 80 points and 965 yards in the last two games.
"They've played some high-caliber opponents," Bobcats coach Frank Solich said of the Warhawks. "It shows you the capability of Louisiana-Monroe and what they're all about. It'll be a tremendous challenge, but certainly one we look forward to."
Like Louisiana-Monroe, Ohio (8-4) opened the season with a road upset, knocking off Penn State 24-14 on Sept. 1.