TLU safety James Bell totaled eight tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery in Saturday's win over Hendrix to earn American Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. Photo by Dustin Wyatt.
(Seguin) - Texas Lutheran limited a high-powered Hendrix College offense to 197 yards in total offense and survived the loss of starting quarterback Kyle Grona and torrential downpours at Bulldog Stadium to notch a 19-14 win in the Bulldogs' season-opener Saturday evening.
TLU moved to 1-0 with the non-conference victory. Hendrix, out of Conway, Ark., dropped to 1-1.
"It became a battle of wills," said Carl Gustafson, TLU's second-year head coach. "I tell you I am so proud of our guys. On the third play of the game, Kyle Grona goes out, and then the rain comes, and it seems like everything you can have go wrong has just gone wrong. But the guys never lost faith that the tide would turn eventually. We made some bad mistakes, but we made some big plays when we needed to, and we hung in there and persevered. Those are the marks of a special group, and this is a special group."
The Bulldogs lost Grona on their first offensive series. Grona was carted off the field after a hard hit in the backfield. He did not return to action (although he appeared in street clothes on the sideline late in the game).
With Grona out, TLU turned to back-up quarterback Jarvis Brooks, who saw his first varsity action as a Bulldog. Brooks guided the Bulldog offense to the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Brooks marched the Bulldogs 10 plays and 81 yards in just over three minutes.
Brooks capped the drive with a 24-yard strike to Charles Robinson. The score came at the 13:29 mark of the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, TLU's defense forced Hendrix into two punts, a fumble and a turnover on downs on its last four possessions.
The Bulldogs collected three interceptions - by James Bell, Adairius Norwood, and Ethan Adams - and had 10 tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and three pass break-ups. Bell recovered a fumble and recorded eight tackles to earn American Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"The laws of physics apply in football, and our defense won the battle in the trenches," said Gustafson. "And while we were able to run the ball when it got messy, our defense took away their running game. Our defensive coaches do a remarkable job, led by our defensive coordinator Ricky Matt. They made some big stops."
The TLU offense had a stretch in the third quarter that resulted in four turnovers on four straight possessions. TLU lost three fumbles and then threw an interception. But Hendrix turned only one of those turnovers into points.
"Again as ugly as it was, the resolve of the team was strong," said Gustafson. "I can't help but think that our kids played, as we always like to talk about, like Bulldogs. I'm so proud of them. I'm so proud of how the entire team supported Jarvis Brooks, and he did a great job for us. He stepped in and kept his poise. You should have heard them encouraging him on the sideline. Our kids responded. We had super glue. We pulled together even tighter."
Brooks completed 12 of his 21 passes and threw for 138 yards with the one touchdown and the one interception.
Chris Monroe and Ian Leslie each hit 100 yards rushing. Monroe carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards, and Leslie rushed 16 times for 100 yards.
Leslie's 35-yard run late in the fourth quarter did not lead to TLU points, but the run put Hendrix deep in its own territory on the final drive that went six plays and produced only four net yards.
Hendrix quarterback Miles Thompson started for the Warriors, but the preseason All-American only played a half. Last year's NCAA Division III total offense leader did not take a snap in the second half. Back-up quarterback Mason Doerr ran the offense in the third and fourth quarters and finished the night 6-for-16 with an interception.
TLU hits the road next week for its first American Southwest Conference game of the year. The Bulldogs face Belhaven (Miss.) at 7 p.m. in Jackson, Miss.
TLU will have live video and radio (KWED 1580 AM) from Belhaven.