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Louisiana Monroe Searches For First Win of Season Against UTEP



MONROE, La. – Since Matt Viator arrived in Monroe, Louisiana prior to the 2016 season, he has not been able to get the Warhawks to turn the corner, but he’s been close. Two years ago, his team finished 6-6 and last season they were 5-7. 2020 has been a different story and his football season has dropped their first two games to Army and Texas State. To make matters worse, ULM dealt with a COVID outbreak prior to the start of this season that caused them to postpone their opener against Troy (will be made up December 5th) and their campus was closed in late August due to Hurricane Laura. They also lost their defensive coordinator Mike Collins in September 2nd, 10 days before their home opener.

As tough as all of these obstacles have been, everything can change Saturday afternoon when the UTEP Miners come to Monroe for a big non-conference road test against the Sun Belt opponent. On the flip side, Dana Dimel’s football team is 2-1 for the first time since 2014 and they have won their first two home games for the first time since 2010. Coach Viator met the media on Monday and talked about the Miners as well as his team in advance of Saturday’s game in Monroe.

UTEP will have to slow down sophomore quarterback Colby Suits, who has thrown for 525 yards and three touchdowns in his first two starts of the 2020 season. Tight end Josh Pederson is a favorite target, since he racked up 567 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. He has nine receptions for 94 yards after two games. Junior Perry Carter Jr. and sophomore Jahquan
Bloomfield are the other two main receiver options for Suits. The running game has struggled out of the gate, but it led by senior John Johnson and his 89 yards on 29 carries. Monroe’s rushing has been held to under 100 yards in both games this season (20 rushes for 37 yards at Army and 26 for 67 vs. Texas State), so it will be interesting to see if they can get things going against the UTEP defense.

After Collins stepped down on September 2nd, the Warhawks hired former UTEP defensive coordinator Scott Stoker for the same position. ULM has struggled mightily against stopping the run this season, which is the polar opposite of the Miners defense. They are giving up an average of 290.5 rushing yards per game. Considering the fact that UTEP is expecting Deion Hankins to play this Saturday, the Miners will probably look to exploit the Warhawks’ run defense early. The Warhawks did have a much better second half against Texas State last weekend, limiting them to just 80 total yards and five first downs. Traveion Webster leads the team with 19 total tackles. Army does not throw the football, so ULM’s 142.5 passing yards allowed per game is a little misleading. Regardless, UTEP has enough balance in their offense to provide a good test Saturday afternoon. 600 ESPN El Paso will air the game beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.