ULM (3-7) at New Mexico State (2-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 22, 4 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aggie Memorial Stadium (30,343) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: AggieVision, Altitude, ESPN3.com. Home Record: ULM 3-2, NMSU 1-4. Away Record: ULM 0-5, NMSU 1-4. Neutral Record: ULM 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Conference Record: ULM 2-4, NMSU 1-5. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: A couple of Sun Belt Conference programs playing out the schedule get together on Saturday afternoon, as the New Mexico State Aggies host the ULM Warhawks.
The Aggies are a team that showed some false promise early on in the campaign when they opened 2-0 with victories over Cal Poly and Georgia State, but since then the team has had little to cheer about during an eight-game slide. The Aggies enjoyed a break in the schedule last week after being pummeled by Louisiana on Nov. 8 by a score of 44-16 at home.
New Mexico State has been equally inept both on the road (1-4) and at home (1-4), and is just 1-5 in conference play thanks to that 34-31 victory over a Georgia State program that is just 1-9 on the campaign.
While NMSU is sitting in ninth place in the SBC standings, the Warhawks are only one step ahead with a mark of 2-4. Like the Aggies, ULM also won the first two games of the season (Wake Forest and Idaho) and then topped Troy a few weeks later, but since that 3-1 start the program has taken a turn for the worse with six straight defeats. Last weekend, the latest setback came against Louisiana in a 34-27 final.
In terms of an all-time series between these two teams, the Aggies have taken all three previous meetings, the most recent of those being a 21-14 decision in Monroe back in 2003.
Against the Ragin' Cajuns, ULM fell behind early and was never able to recover. Still, quarterback Pete Thomas had one of the best passing games of his college career as he completed 38-of-54 attempts for a career-high 472 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he was also sacked seven times, which led to the team being labeled with minus-39 rushing yards.
Receiver Rashon Ceasar accounted for 11 receptions for 120 yards and a score to no avail. Gerrand Johnson was responsible for a game-high 11 tackles, all but one of which was assisted, and was credited with two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss overall.
Gerrand Johnson currently ranks second on the team in tackles with 71, while his 5.5 sacks are tied with Michael Johnson (59 tackles) for the team high. The latter Johnson is also first on the unit with 11 TFL and the team as a whole is now averaging slightly better than seven TFL per contest.
In terms of the poor rushing effort by the Warhawks last weekend, it might not be all that surprising really, given that the team ranks 123rd in the nation with only 74.5 ppg. Obviously the negative number brought the team down, but already there were issues with ULM making progress when the ball was not in the hands of Thomas.
Speaking of Thomas, a quarterback who has already plied his trade at Colorado State and North Carolina State since leaving high school, he has completed 58.6 percent of his attempts for 11 TDs and five INTs for a program that is barely getting by with only 19.5 ppg.
Meanwhile the Aggies, who are set to close out their season at Arkansas State next weekend, they are a team that has been having major issues on the defensive side of the ball when it comes to stopping opposing runners. Those ball carriers are generating a massive 318.0 ypg on the ground, which makes the NMSU run defense the worst in the FBS. The pass defense is a far different story however, as the unit permits a minuscule 144.9 ypg (second in the FBS), but that probably has more to do with foes finding so much success on the ground than anything else.
On the offensive side of the ball, Larry Rose III is the top runner with 736 yards and six TDs, but he is listed as questionable for this weekend due to a concussion. If Rose is unable to go, the next best option is Xavier Hall with his 342 yards and five TDs on 105 attempts.
Unfortunately, the passing attack doesn't appear to be much of a viable option for the Aggies because while Tyler Rogers may be completing passes at a 62.3 percent clip for an average of 236.3 ypg, his 15 TDs are still dwarfed by his 20 interceptions. Needless to say, NMSU's turnover margin is tied for 120th in the country at minus-1.30 per contest.
While Thomas will have a hard time duplicating his efforts from last weekend, it is still safe to say that his history in the pocket is much better than that of Rogers, and should be enough to put the Warhawks in the win column one more time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: ULM 31, New Mexico State 21
11/19 10:47:20 ET