TLU sophomore Ian Leslie became the fifth Bulldog to top 100 rushing yards in a single game this season with 148 in last Saturday’s win at East Texas Baptist.
(Seguin) – For the second straight week, Texas Lutheran will be tasked with slowing one of Division III football’s most prolific offenses when No. 5 ranked Hardin Simmons pays a visit to Bulldog Stadium in American Southwest Conference play on Saturday.
The Cowboys (5-1, 4-1 ASC), led by seventh-year head coach Jesse Burleson, bounced back from a 17-7 loss to No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor two weeks ago with a 35-10 thumping of Sul Ross State last Saturday. The Bulldogs are also 4-1 in conference play, and improved to 4-2 overall in Carl Gustafson’s first season as head coach by erasing a 24-7 first-half deficit to notch their third straight win last week, 41-34 over East Texas Baptist in Marshall.
Hardin Simmons is the NCAA Division III leader in total offense with an average of 571.3 yards per game, and ranks second nationally with a 52.3 scoring average. The Cowboys lead the ASC in rushing (297.2), and rank second in the league in scoring defense (13.7), total defense (290.3), and third-down defense (28.1 percent).
The Bulldogs counter with a rushing attack that ranks third in the ASC (249.8) and has seen five different players – Kyle Grona, Jordan Braden, Ian Leslie, J.C. Garcia, and Christopher Monroe – top the 100-yard mark in a single game.
Grona has been a true dual thread quarterback for TLU in 2017. The junior from Fredericksburg enters Saturday with a team-high 425 rushing yards and six touchdowns to go with 1,004 yards and eight scores through the air. He tied the school record with four rushing touchdowns in the win over ETBU last week.
The TLU offense also leads the conference in third-down conversion rate, moving the chains 52.2 percent of the time.
Hardin Simmons features three All-ASC offensive returnees in junior running-back Jaquan Hemphill, junior receiver Reese Childress, and sophomore tackle Jonathan Castaneda. The Cowboys’ statistica leaders include quarteback Ty Hooper (926 yds., 7 TD), Hemphill (712 yds., 12 TD - both 1st in ASC), Jones (351 yds., 4 TD), and Childress (30 rec., 465 yds., 6 TD).
The TLU defense has been stout against the run this season, allowing just 62.2 rushing yards per game and 2.2 yards per carry to rank second in the ASC in both categories. Freshman linebacker and West Orange-Stark producing Keyshawn Holman is the reigning ASC Co-Defensive Player of the Week after a two-sack, eight-tackle outing against ETBU last Saturday. Junior linebacker Adarius Norwood leads the Bulldogs in tackles (41), and sophomore defensive end Manny Longoria is the ASC leader in sacks (6.0). Freshman safety James Bell is one of six players in the conference with three interceptions this season.
The Hardin Simmons defense boasts three seniors who garnered All-ASC recognition a year ago in defensive end Jim LaFond, strong safety Matthew Hawkins, and cornerback Reggie Davis. Senior linebacker Josh White leads the Cowboys in tackles with 51 stops on the year.
Saturday’s kickoff at TLU’s Bulldog Stadium in Seguin is set for 1 p.m. The game will air live on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com, with streaming video available at tlubulldogs.com. Pre-game coverage starts at 12:30 p.m.