It has been a tough road for Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks have started the season 1-3, but all three of their losses have come against really good teams.
Losing at Georgia and at Alabama is tough enough. But ULM played decent at home against Sun Belt Conference power Georgia Southern, but still lost 51-31.
It’s really hard to figure out who the Warhawks are right now. Are they a football team that is better than their record suggests? Or are they just a bad team with some pretty losses?
The jury is still out on that question as ULM played Tulsa very close, but the Golden Hurricane scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Warhawks 34-24.
Despite the loss, it was a great effort by a team that is still mourning the loss of quarterback Daniel Fitzwater, who died suddenly last week.
After trailing 20-7 at halftime, ULM rallied to take the lead in the third quarter by scoring 17 points, including a 26-yard touchdown from quarterback Garrett Smith to wideout Ajalen Holley and a 46-yard touchdown run by DeVontae McNeal put the Warhawks up 24-20 entering the fourth quarter.
But a pair of turnovers did in ULM in the fourth, as a Smith interception led to a go-ahead touchdown for Tulsa, and then a fumble on the kickoff return led to a back-breaking touchdown with four minutes left in the game.
So ULM is 1-4 overall, but looking at their schedule, there is a shot – a long one – for the Warhawks to get bowl eligible. It would have to take winning some games on the road and winning home games against some tough opponents.
The next game is at home, but it’s against an Appalachian State team that is playing its best ball right now. The Mountaineers looked strong against Georgia State on Saturday, and is clicking on both offense and defense.
After that, it’s a long road trip to Idaho, which is a winnable game for ULM. But then it’s a trip down south to Lafayette to face the rival Ragin’ Cajuns, who beat the Warhawks in last year’s meeting. However, ULM did beat ULL in the last meeting at Cajun Field in 2013.
The rest of the schedule is at Troy, home against Arkansas State, a long trip at Hawaii, and ending the regular season at home against New Mexico State.
The sure wins for ULM would be against Idaho and NMSU. But to reach six wins, the Warhawks will need to get home wins against App State and Arkansas State, both very good teams. Or ULM can get one of those two wins, plus road wins at Troy and ULL, and that will get them to six wins.
The wild card game is the game at Hawaii on Thanksgiving weekend. Obviously it will be a bowl-like experience, but will the long travel from Louisiana across the Pacific Ocean wear the Warhawks down, or will they come out focused against the Rainbow Warriors?
Head coach Todd Berry had his team focused and ready to go at his alma mater on Saturday, and ULM responded and played a tough game. It’s still up in the air if the Warhawks can carry this over to the rest of Sun Belt play and get ULM to go bowling.