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Western Kentucky (3-2) at ULM (2-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 3, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Malone Stadium (31,175) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: WKU 2-0, ULM 1-1. Away Record: WKU 0-2, ULM 1-2. Neutral Record: WKU 1-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 0-1, ULM 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 4-4.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will try once again to claim their first road victory of the season, as they travel to Monroe for a Thirsday night Sun Belt Conference showdown with the ULM Warhawks.
Western Kentucky is fresh off an undefeated two-game homestand to climb above .500 for the first time this season, taking down Morgan State on Sept. 21 (58-17) and Navy last weekend (19-7). The Hilltoppers are searching for their first league victory after losing their opener at South Alabama on Sept. 14, 31-24.
ULM tested itself with a difficult non-conference schedule and it emerged from it at 2-3. The Warhawks found themselves on the losing end of two blowouts against nationally-ranked Big 12 squads Oklahoma (34-0) and Baylor (70-7), and they suffered a disappointing home loss to Tulane last Saturday, 31-14.
The series between these two rivals was renewed in 2009 after being dormant since 1955. Since the renewal, ULM has won three of four matchups, including last season in Bowling Green, 43-42, in overtime, to tie the all-time series at 4-4.
WKU owns one of the Sun Belt's most explosive offenses (31.2 ppg, 462.4 ypg) thanks in large part to the play of its star running back who fits perfectly into head coach Bobby Petrino's scheme.
A year after amassing 3,161 all-purpose yards, the second-most in single- season FBS history, Antonio Andrews is up to his same tricks here in 2013. The tailback leads the nation is rushing, racking up 727 yards and eight touchdowns on just 97 carries (7.5 ypc), and he has rushed for at least 99 yards in every game. The dynamic playmaker is also a threat in the passing game (15 receptions, 154 yards), as well as a return man (260 yards).
First-year starting quarterback Brandon Doughty has shown some flashes with 1,028 yards (.673 completion percentage) and five touchdowns, although his nine interceptions is tied for most in the nation.
Willie McNeal (215 yards) and Joel German (201 yards) each have 16 receptions, but neither has scored a touchdown yet, while Nicholas Norris (14 receptions, 171 yards) has been on the receiving end of three of Doughty's scoring strikes.
Defensively, the Hilltoppers have been one of the best units in the Sun Belt. ranking second in scoring defense (26.6 ppg) and first in total defense (343.0 ypg).
Xavius Boyd is in the midst of an All-American-type season at linebacker, racking up 53 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 6.5 sacks. Andrew Jackson (35 tackles, 2.5 TFL), Jonathan Dowling (31 tackles, two INTs, two FF) and Arius Wright (20 tackles, 3.0 TFL, sack, INT) are also off to strong starts.
In 2012, ULM was one of the Sun Belt's best offensive teams, scoring nearly 34 points per game, but so far in 2013 the unit has been rather anemic in putting up just 18.0 ppg and fewer than 350 yards per contest.
Kolton Browning has been a disappointment. Despite throwing for seven touchdowns and 967 yards, he is completing less than 53 percent of his passes and has tossed six interceptions while averaging under three yards per carry on the ground. Browning suffered a leg injury against Tulane last week and is listed as doubtful for this contest. Brayle Brown (14-of-28, 167 yards, TD, three INTs) will start in his place if he can't go.
Rashon Ceaser is second in the conference in receptions (31) and third in receiving yards (341), but he has yet to find the end zone. Tavarese Maye (25 receptions, 222 yards, TD) and Je'Ron Hamm (16 receptions, 165 yards, TD) are also reliable targets out wide.
Jyruss Edwards earns the majority of the work in the backfield, turning 50 carries into 248 yards and a score.
In addition to an underachieving offense, the Warhawks have also played poorly on the defensive side of the ball, allowing 32.8 ppg and 418.0 ypg while forcing just five turnovers.
Cameron Blakes leads the team with 39 stops, which includes 3.0 TFL and 2.5 sacks. Isaiah Newsome has recorded two interceptions to go with 21 tackles, and Ray Stovall (4.5 TFL, sack) and Joey Gautney (3.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) have done a decent job applying pressure at the point of attack.
Despite owning home field advantage during the short week, ULM is in such disarray right now that it is a hard to trust the team, especially with its quarterback likely out of action. Expect Andrews to go off once again as the Hilltoppers claim an important league win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 34, ULM 24
10/02 10:36:55 ET
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