By Josh Orozco
Assistant Sports Director
Texas State has the unfortunate distinction of being the only FBS team in the nation with an 0-2 record through the first two weeks of college football. ULM fell in their season opener last week against Army as the Black Knights torched the Warhawks with their destructive triple option by rushing 65 times throughout the night.
Nevertheless, both teams head into their seventeenth all-time matchup in Monroe, Louisiana as an opportunity to bounce back.
Here are the three things to watch for in the maroon and gold’s first conference game of the season against the ULM Warhawks.
Forget it, Jake, it’s Ground Town
For the second straight week, head coach Jake Spavital and the Bobcats find themselves in a showdown against a dangerous running threat.
Although ULM running back Josh Johnson couldn’t get much going last week against a stingy Army defense, the fifth year Warhawk is bound to prove why he was selected to the conference’s preseason first offensive team.
On the other hand, the Bobcats look to tighten up on stopping the run having now surrendered seven rushing touchdowns in the first two games.
The bottom two teams in rushing defense in the Sun Belt thus far in the season? Texas State and ULM. An unfavorable formula for each squad could lead to a high number of yards on the ground.
Once again, Calvin Hill and Brock Sturges provided the Bobcats with a solid one-two punch from the backfield within the red zone last week. Texas State is trending at a much improved rate in year two under running backs coach Nick Whitworth, having accumulated 34% of last season’s total yards on the ground with 10 games left to go.
For the second straight week, Texas State quarterback Brady McBride was announced as inactive on game day. The week one starter sat in the Bobcat’s previous matchup against UTSA due to contact tracing. However, the reason for the missing his second consecutive game is still unknown.
McBride took to Twitter to provide an update on his inactive status against ULM on the road.
Junior quarterback Tyler Vitt is once again lined up for another start for Texas State following a 346 yard, four touchdown and two interception performance against UTSA just a week ago.
With Vitt at the helm, the Bobcats look to break ULM’s four-game win streak against the maroon and gold. The Warhawks have captured a win in five of the last seven games against the Bobcats since they joined the Sun Belt in 2013.
A loss against the Warhawks would mark back-to-back seasons with an 0-3 start for a Spavital-lead Texas State team.
Tale of the Turnover
Forcing takeaways is vital for any team’s triumph. Every victory versus conference foes last season for ULM came as a result of either winning or tying the turnover battle. Turnovers on the Warhawks side is important this week to get more repetitions for quarterback Colby Suits, as the sophomore searches for added comfortability after a not-so-warm welcome to the starting role against Army.
Texas State is just one of three teams in the Sun Belt with multiple interceptions thus far in the 2020 campaign. Grid Isidore and Kordell Rodgers are just a pair of leaders on the revitalized Bobcat defense with takeaways thus far in 2020.
Capitalizing on turnovers will be crucial in the first conference game of the season for both ULM and Texas State with the season’s first win on the line.
Both teams had few expectations within the conference heading into the season. ULM was picked to finish last in the Sun Belt west division in the preseason coaches’ poll, just one vote shy of fourth place, Texas State.
Texas State played from behind in each of their first two games. If the maroon and gold can get the ball rolling early, expect the ‘Cats to capture their first win of the season.
ULM is living in a post-Caleb Evans world, and similar to UTSA the week prior, the Warhawks have yet to prove how efficient they are offensively.
However, it would also be an understatement to call a loss for Texas State alarming, as four more straight road games await the maroon and gold following their trip to Monroe.
Prediction: Texas State 31, ULM 27.
The Bobcats travel on the road for the first time this season as Texas State takes on the ULM Warhawks inside Malone Stadium at 6 p.m. on ESPNU and over the airwaves on KTSW 89.9. Live tweets, updates and analysis on all things Texas State football can all be found on @KTSWSports on Twitter.
Featured image by Texas State Athletics.