The Matt Viator era got underway with a bang for ULM as the Warhawks equaled half of their win total from 2015 with a 38-21 win over Southern on Saturday evening. Led by a strong rushing attack ULM surpassed their 2015 scoring average by seventeen points. They also held Southern to 15 fewer points than what their defense averaged in surrender last season. However, they’re far from a perfect team and should allow Oklahoma the necessary level of competition to correct some mistakes without fear of a major upset.
Everything with ULM runs through dual-threat quarterback Garrett Smith. A 6-0/211 sophomore, Smith passed for 208 yards and two scores last week, but also threw two interceptions. His top target was senior receiver Ajalen Holley who caught five balls for 48 yards, but sophomore Marcus Green is the guy who can stretch the field. Green averaged 19.7 yards per reception last week (on three catches) and added a score.
Smith was also the team’s top rusher by compiling 150 yards, and a score, on 14 carries. He was aided on the ground by sophomore Ben Luckett (18 carries/110 yards) and freshman Austin Vaughn (8 carries/57 yards). Senior Tyler Cain was slated to be the starting running back the Warhawks but was a late scratch and his status is uncertain for Saturday.
There’s absolutely nothing special here. ULM was 104th in the nation against the rush in 2015 and it looks like they are on their way to those types of numbers again this season. Southern ran for 239 yards, at an average of 5.2 yards per carry, last week. With all due respect to the opponent, this is truly a game where Oklahoma should not punt.
While having the ability to run at will on the Warhawks, the Sooners really need some work in their passing game. Baker Mayfield gave up on underneath routes too often against Houston and held the ball longer than needed. Look for that to be a point of emphasis in between long runs from Oklahoma’s stable of running backs.
Defensively it’s all about stopping Smith. I would expect OU to implement the same type of game plan as they did last Saturday, against Houston, but with even better results. The Sooners should be living in the ULM backfield with they type of pressure they are capable of bringing. They’ve got to get the corner position opposite of Jordan Thomas solidified and I would expect a rotation between Dakota Austin and Parrish Cobb.