Before the pressure of their final Mountain ranked TCU Horned game, non-conference homestand this weekend against the ever meeting between the two programs.
TCU, which has home dates against Portland State and SMU in the next few weeks before going hard and heavy versus the rest of the MWC, actually began league play last weekend with a matchup against Air Force on the road. In that meeting the Frogs responded with a 35-19 win to even their overall record at 1-1 following a disappointing 50-48 setback versus Baylor in the opener.
Settling in at Amon G. Carter Stadium where the Horned Frogs have won nine straight home openers under head coach Gary Patterson, the team is aiming to win for the 100th time overall behind the guidance of Patterson. Not only is this the first-ever meeting between these two programs, it also marks the first matchup for the Frogs against a Sun Belt Conference member since TCU joined the MWC.
As for the Warhawks, they too are 1-1 at the moment, but arrive with that mark following two very different outcomes. In the season opener, ULM was beaten back by Florida State on the road, 34-0, but last weekend the team put one in the win column, just the second in the last six contests dating back to 2010, with a 35-7 rout of Grambling State at home. The road doesn't get any easier for the Warhawks after this as they challenge the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road next week.
ULM ran out to a 21-7 lead in the second quarter against the Tigers and was up by three touchdowns at the break, making it that much easier for the Warhawks to cruise to the convincing win last weekend at home. Quarterbacks Kolton Browning and Cody Wells converted 19-of-36 combined passes for 205 yards and a couple of touchdowns, while running back Centarius Donald led the way on the ground with a game-high 144 yards and a score on just 12 attempts, and yet the team still wasn't firing on all cylinders as far as the coaching staff was concerned.
"Offensively right now we are really out of sync and I don't understand it at all," said ULM head coach Todd Berry after his team's win over Grambling by four touchdowns. "We'll get to the bottom of it this week, I promise you I will because, for whatever reason this is the same group of offensive players that we played with last year and nobody's making any plays."
Defensively the Warhawks were right on point, limiting the visitors to just four first downs, 26 yards rushing and 144 yards of total offense thanks in large part to the efforts of Troy Evans who made five of his six tackles behind the line of scrimmage and was credited with two sacks, the unit piling up seven such quarterback takedowns and 10 TFLs overall.
Because of the effort against Grambling, after two games ULM ranks first in the Sun Belt and tied for seventh in the nation with 4.5 sacks per game, but you can bet that average will more than likely drop this coming weekend due to the fact that TCU doesn't allow the smaller schools to push it around and will be pounding the ball on the ground in order to loosen up the Warhawk secondary.
As far as the ULM offense is concerned, the team ranks first in their league in rushing with 173 ypg, but unless they can figure out how to consistently gain meaningful yardage through the air all of that effort on the ground might not make much of a difference.
Stats for the Horned Frogs are a bit skewed early on following the meeting with Baylor in which TCU gave up yards and points at an alarming rate, but ULM has to remember that this is a TCU program that led the nation in defense the last three years and just because there's been a few changes on that side of the ball the Warhawks cannot take them lightly.
However, at the same time the Horned Frogs themselves have to be a bit concerned with the status of their defense and, in particular, whether or not star linebacker Tanner Brock will be available after suffering a foot injury and sitting out the meeting with Air Force.
The defense will be there for the Horned Frogs, the bigger question might be whether or not quarterback Casey Pachall can put together another strong effort this time around. Against the Falcons, Pachall converted all but five of his 25 pass attempts, leading to 206 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Pachall already has seven TDs and 535 yards, against just a single pick, in the early going now that he's the focus of the TCU offense.
Also adding to the offensive attack last week for the Frogs was running back Matthew Tucker who scored twice and generated 95 yards on 16 carries, while Waymon James pitched in with 55 yards and a score of his own on 13 attempts as he helped stretch the Air Force defense out of its comfort zone.
"Their movement is extraordinary," Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun noted after his team's loss. "Their ability to play off blocks on the perimeter, they're good."