Last Thursday night was a scary one for the ULM Warhawks, who narrowly edged the Southeastern Louisiana Lions 34-31. With conference title aspirations and hopes of reaching their second-ever bowl game, Matt Viator’s team was expected to roll in their season opener and look strong heading into the meat of their schedule.
That was far from the case after Thursday’s win, as the victory felt more like a punch to the gut of every hopeful member of the fanbase. ULM looked helplessly inferior at times, and for anyone who expected big things this season, it may have been a bit of a reality check.
The Warhawk offense did exactly what we expected them to do. They put 34 points on the board as Caleb Evans threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Gore rushed for 104 and a score, and Marcus Green hauled in two touchdowns. This unit is the obvious strong point of this team, and they, for the most part, did what we expected in week one.
The other side of the ball is where things get a lot more complicated. ULM gave up 31 points to a Southeastern team that had no business matching the offensive production of the home team. Lions quarterback Chason Virgil threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, completing just under 72% of his passes. Virgil and company shredded the secondary, leaving the Warhawk defense looking completely clueless for much of the night.
With a complete program turnaround in sight, this was the fear of every ULM fan. We knew this team had the offense, we knew they had good leadership, and we hoped that the defense would be good enough to get by. It may just be one game, but things çertainly aren’t looking good.
If Southeastern can hang 31 on this defense, what is Southern Miss going to do next week, and what kind of numbers the rest of the Sun Belt conference put up against the Warhawks?
We had hoped to see some of our questions answered in week one, but heading into a battle with the Golden Eagles, we are left with just as many questions, if not more. We have no reason to count this team out as a contender just yet, but there is certainly an underlying fear within those hopes.
Matt Viator has certainly done a fantastic job turning the program around, but much remains to be seen if we are to declare this rebuild a total success. The defense still looks extremely vulnerable, and despite the explosiveness of the offense, there’s not much hope for this ULM squad if they are a one-sided attack.
Week two brings with it quite a bit of fear for fans, who can only imagine what will take place if the same defensive performance repeats itself. But with the lofty expectations we entered the season with, I would like to believe there is still hope. One way or another, the Warhawks will answer all of our questions this Saturday against Southern Miss.