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Game Preview: Texas Lutheran hosts Louisiana College - 6 p.m. Saturday in Bulldog Stadium

Photo by Joey Dearing
Photo by Joey Dearing

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KWED 1580 AM

 

Bulldogs Seek 4th Straight Win of 2019 

The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs, coming off one of the biggest wins in program history, look to keep their NCAA Division III playoff hopes alive with a home victory Saturday against Louisiana College. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at TLU's Bulldog Stadium (Frank L. Dunne Field). TLU is fresh off a 38-27 road victory at No. 6 Hardin-Simmons. In succession, the Bulldogs have defeated East Texas Baptist on the road, shut out Southwestern at home, and knocked off HSU in Abilene, where TLU had one just one time in the previous 11 games. 

 

Huge Win in Shelton Stadium 

The Bulldogs must avoid a letdown from the huge win in Abilene against Hardin-Simmons. The Bulldogs had won just once at HSU before Saturday and had only defeated HSU twice in 21 tries before breaking through against the Cowboys with the 38-27 victory. 

 

Three Defensive Touchdowns in One Game 

The Bulldogs scored three defensive touchdowns in the victory over Hardin-Simmons. It marked the first time in TLU's non-scholarship era (which began in 1998) that the Bulldogs had scored three defensive touchdowns. The three defensive touchdowns for TLU came on: a 58-yard interception return by freshman safety Daniel Enriquez, a 39-yard fumble recovery by senior defensive end Manny Longoria, and a 25-yard interception return by junior defensive end Jackson Worley. "Three defensive touchdowns, that is just amazing," said Carl Gustafson, TLU's third-year head coach, after the game. "I don't know that I have seen a game in the last 10 years in which a defense has scored three touchdowns. (The defense) really played well. 

 

Enriquez Grabs Defensive Honors 

Texas Lutheran freshman safety Daniel Enriquez was named Tuesday to the D3football. com Team of the Week after his performance Saturday in the Bulldogs' 38-27 road win over then-No. 6 Hardin-Simmons. On Sunday, Enriquez was named the American Southwest Conference Tri-Defensive Player of the Week. Enriquez intercepted a pair of passes in the first half and returned one 58 yards for a touchdown just before the end of the first half. His first interception set up a short 17-yard scoring drive. The interception just before the half had Enriquez crossing the goal line with just 12 seconds to play in the first half. Enriquez finished the game with seven total tackles and a tackle for loss. 

 

Monster Tackle Total for Derek Dunn 

Even with the game produced by Daniel Enriquez and the defensive touchdowns also scored by Manny Longoria and Jackson Worley, it would have been hard to ignore the contributions of senior linebacker Derek Dunn against HSU. Dunn tallied a career-high 17 total tackles against the Cowboys and tied his career single-game mark for sacks, with two. Dunn now has 28 tackles in his last two games to go along with four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss (also in the last two contests). Dunn now leads TLU in total tackles with 39. He also has a team-best 8.5 tackles for losses of 42 yards and team-high four sacks for 29 yards. 

 

Dunn Among National Leaders in D3 

Derek Dunn has had success getting into the backfield, coming into Saturday ranked 35th in sacks and 16th in tackles for loss. Dunn's tackles for loss have helped the Bulldogs register 8.5 tackles for loss per game, putting the defense at No. 33 in all of D3 in that category. 

 

Bulldogs Lead D3 in Defensive TDs 

Texas Lutheran currently ranks first in NCAA Division III for defensive touchdowns, with four. TLU is tied with two other teams with four defensive scores, but each of those other two teams have played one more game than the Bulldogs. 

 

TLU Up to 15th in Turnovers Gained 

With 13 turnovers collected, the Bulldogs are ranked 15th in NCAA Division III. TLU also has a plus-2.25 turnover margin, which ranks seventh. With six fumble recoveries, the Bulldogs are 16th in that category. 

 

Bulldogs Still Rely Heavily on the Run 

The Bulldogs have the 21st-ranked rushing offense in the nation, with eight total rushing touchdowns and 233.8 rushing yards on average per game. This ground-and-pound approach has led to the Bulldogs holding onto the ball for an average of 32 minutes and 28 seconds, putting the Bulldogs at 39th in the nation for time of possession. 

 

Efficiency in the Passing Game 

Through four games the Bulldogs have been extremely efficient through the air. The Bulldogs (knock on wood) have yet to throw an interception through the first four games TLU is among a few teams in NCAA D3 yet to throw a pick. The Bulldogs also rank 32nd in completion percentage.

 

Enriquez, TLU Among INT leaders 

Daniel Enriquez's ball-hawking abilities have helped him to a No. 14 ranking in D3 for interceptions per game (at 0.8 per game). This has helped the Bulldogs move to No. 34 in interceptions, with seven on the year so far. TLU also ranks 33rd in team defensive pass efficiency. 

 

11 Turnovers Gained for TLU in 2 games 

After forcing six turnovers in the 27-0 win over Southwestern, the Bulldogs collected five more turnovers in the road win against sixth-ranked Hardin-Simmons. So that's 11 turnovers in the last two games, which is the second-most turnovers gained in two games in TLU's non-scholarship era, which dates back to 1998. The only other time that TLU has had more than 11 turnovers gained in two games came in that 1998 season, when the Bulldogs had 14 turnovers collected in two games. TLU gained eight turnovers (non-scholarship era record) in a 74-20 home win at Matador Stadium against Southwestern Assemblies of God and then picked up six in a road loss to Austin College in Sherman, Texas. 

 

TLU-LC Game Always Seems to Thrill 

The Bulldogs and Wildcats have played quite a few thrilling games in their football history together. Four of the last seven games have been decided by 10 points or less, and three of the last seven have come down to the last minute of regulation. TLU needed a James Bell interception in the closing seconds to knock off LC in Pineville a year ago. Bell also returned an interception for a touchdown in last year's TLU victory.

 

TLU vs. Louisiana College all-time 

(Louisiana College leads series, 15-11) 

1955 Louisiana College 20, TLU 7 

1956 Louisiana College 20, TLU 19 

1957 Louisiana College 26, TLU 20 

1958 Louisiana College 26, TLU 7 

1959 Louisiana College 26, TLU 23 

1960 Louisiana College 13, TLU 7 

1961 Louisiana College 7, TLU 0 

2000 TLU 45, Louisiana College 28 

2001 TLU 48, Louisiana College 44 

2002 Louisiana College 22, TLU 6 

2003 TLU 26, Louisiana College 21 

2004 TLU 64, Louisiana College 62 (4OT) 

2005 TLU 44, Louisiana College 41 

2006 TLU 24, Louisiana College 22 

2007 Louisiana College 31, TLU 26 

2008 Louisiana College 29, TLU 7 

2009 Louisiana College 42, TLU 3 

2010 Louisiana College 38, TLU 21 

2011 Louisiana College 37, TLU 16 

2012 Louisiana College 44, TLU 37 (OT) 

2013 TLU 37, Louisiana College 27 

2014 TLU 38, Louisiana College 32 

2015 TLU 38, Louisiana College 14 

2016 Louisiana College 58, TLU 28 

2017 TLU 47, Louisiana College 30 

2018 TLU 41, Louisiana College 36  

 

15th Anniversary of 4-OT Victory at LC 

On Oct. 16, 2004, the Bulldogs and the Wildcats battled each other for four hours and four minutes in a contest that took four overtimes in old Bates Stadium to decide. The game was a clash of styles, with the Bulldogs focused on running the ball behind Kenny Gransberry (244 rushing yards and four touchdowns) and the Wildcats moving the ball though the air behind QB Wesley Cooper (431 passing yards and six touchdowns). The Bulldogs were able to force two interceptions, with one coming from Jake Robbins (10 tackles). Throughout the overtime periods, the Bulldogs stuck to their ground game, scoring four more rushing touchdowns. After stopping a Wildcat two-point conversion, the Bulldogs secured victory on their own two-point conversion with a pass from Sean Salinas to tight end Matt Ross. The play came with Salinas rolling right on a boot leg and finding Ross open in the endzone. 

 

Freshman QB Sal Palermo Steps Up 

Louisiana College has turned to a freshman QB to take the reins of the offense the last two games after a slow start to the year. Palermo has thrown for five touchdowns, two interceptions and 673 yards over four games played. Coming off a 256-yard game with three touchdowns thrown as well as 36 yards on the ground, Palermo seems to have settled into his new role. 

 

Rushing Duo Leads Wildcats 

Louisiana College mainly has used two running backs - Aaron Woods and Markaylin Milburn - this year. Woods has rushed for 196 yards over five games this year, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Milburn has only played three games, but he has racked up 103 yards at 3.4 yards per carry. Neither Woods nor Milburn have recorded a rushing touchdown this year. 

 

Three Receivers Stand Out for LC 

Micah Dunn, Zion Williams, and Jared Simpson have been the consistent performers in the passing game this season, regardless of the quarterback changes. Dunn is the leading receiver with 30 catches for 366 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown. Williams has 26 catches for 251 yards with two touchdowns on the year so far. Simpson leads the receiving core with five touchdown catches off of 17 receptions, for a total of 359 yards. 

 

Pass-First Offense for LC 

The Louisiana College Wildcats are a predominantly passing team, with nine of their 10 touchdowns coming though the air. Over their first five games, the Wildcats have passed for an average of 249 yards per game and have rushed for 77.8 yards per game. Only averaging 13.8 yard on kick returns, and 4.2 yards on punt returns, the passing attack has been the Wildcats' biggest weapon. 

 

Lalonde Sidelined but Not Forgotten 

 

Sophomore Quarterback Landon Lalonde has been sidelined the last few games, but he could see action Saturday against TLU. Over three games played, Lalonde has thrown for four touchdowns and averages 185.7 passing yards per game. Though he his four interceptions, he still throws completions on 50.6 percent of his attempts If Palermo struggles against the strong Bulldog defense, Lalonde could make an appearance.

 

Latin Leads Defense into the Backfield 

Sophomore defensive lineman Micah Latin is leading the Wildcats' defense when it comes to getting into the backfield. Latin has six tackles for loss totaling 28 yards and three sacks costing opposing offenses 21 yards. Latin's three sacks are more than the rest of his teammates combined so far this season, with the team having five total sacks including Latin's.

 

Julius Johnson Racking up the Tackles 

Junior Linebacker Julius Johnson is leading the Wildcats' defense with 37 total tackles, 10 more than the closest player behind him. Johnson's nose for the ball has led to two tackles for loss totaling two yards, as well as a fumble recovery. Johnson has also helped in pass defense with three passes broken up. 

 

Only Seven Turnovers Over Five Games 

Unlike the turnover-machine Bulldogs this year, the Wildcats only have forced six turnovers this year. Three came from interceptions, with Quinton Thibodeaux returning one for 27 yards, and four more came off fumbles where zero yards were gained off the recovery. Though only four fumbles were recovered by the Wildcats, the defense has forced eight total fumbles over their first five games. 

 

Gibson Jr. Leads Wildcat Secondary 

Donald Gibson Jr. has been the leading player in the secondary this season, with 25 tackles so far with one tackle for loss that has cost the opposing team eight yards. Gibson Jr. also has one of the team's three interceptions (which he returned for three yards) as well as a forced fumble. True to his position Gibson Jr. has defended three passes with two broken up across the first five games. 

 

Colin LaHaye Pins Teams Deep 

The very active Wildcat punter, Colin LaHaye has been key to pushing teams back down the field once the offense has failed to convert. LaHaye has racked up 1,302 yards over 38 punts across five games, with three of his punts going for over 50 yards and eight pinning teams back behind their 20-yard line. Opposing teams have struggled to return against the Wildcats coverage after the punt, averaging only 2.4 yards. 

 

Wildcats Struggle Against the Run 

The Wildcats have had very little success stopping the run this year. Over five games, the Wildcats have had 227.2 rushing yards per game given up as well as a total of 17 rushing touchdowns scored against them. The Bulldogs will look to take advantage of a team that has allowed opponents to run for 5.3 yards per attempt. 

 

Last Game - Louisiana College 

Louisiana College 27, Howard Payne 21 

A Cain Leon 2-yard run into the endzone with 45 seconds to play gave Louisiana College a much-needed 27-21 road win over Howard Payne Saturday in Brownwood. The run capped a 51-yard, 9-play drive that took 3:12, breaking the 21-21 tie from the 13:52 mark of the fourth quarter. 

 

"Today we played our most complete game of the season," said Head Coach Justin Charles following the game. "All three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, stepped up today for the win. I'm very proud of the players and coaches on this team." 

 

LC moves to 2-3 on the year and 2-2 in American Southwest Conference play. HPU is also 2-3 overall, but now 1-3 in the ASC. 

 

Palermo went the distance for LC, completing 19 of 37 passes for 256 yard and 3 scores. That's a completion percentage of just over 51 percent, without an interception. Mark Milburn led the Wildcats ground attack, with 83 yards on 16 carries, Palermo added 36 net wards on 10 carries. Nine different Wildcats caught at least one pass in the game. 

 

Last Game - Texas Lutheran 

TLU 38, No. 6 Hardin-Simmons 27 

The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs forced five turnovers and returned three of those for touchdowns in a 38-27 road upset of sixth-ranked Hardin-Simmons. 

 

The victory, just TLU's second win at Shelton Stadium in 12 tries, moved the Bulldogs to 3-1 overall and to 3-0 in the American Southwest Conference. The Bulldogs won for the third time in the series with the Cowboys. HSU leads the series 19-3. 

 

The three defensive touchdowns for TLU came on: a 58-yard interception return by freshman safety Daniel Enriquez (Edinburg/ Vela), a 39-yard fumble recovery by senior defensive end Manny Longoria (Geronimo/ Navarro), and a 25-yard interception return by junior defensive end Jackson Worley (Keller/Timber Creek). 

 

A fourth TLU touchdown after an HSU turnover came four plays after the first of Enriquez's two interceptions against the Cowboys. 

 

Later in the half, with HSU trying to get in position for a late second-quarter score, Enriquez stepped in front of a Brennan Wooten pass and dashed down the right sideline for the 58-touchdown. Twelve seconds remained in the first half after the Enriquez pick-six. TLU led 17-10 at the break.