TLU opens season at No. 19 with senior DB receiving recognition

Story courtesy: Texas Lutheran Athletics

The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs picked up a preseason Top 25 ranking recently, and senior safety James Bell (Houston/Lamar) was named to a preseason team and mentioned on an NFL Draft prospects list.

The Bulldogs are ranked 19th in the 2020 Street & Smith’s Preseason Top 25 for NCAA Division III. TLU is coming off an 8-2 season and a second-place finish in the American Southwest Conference. TLU was 8-1 in conference play in 2019.

Bell, a three-year starter at free safety for the Bulldogs, was named to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Small College Preseason Team, and he was named to the Draft Diamond Texas Small College NFL Draft Prospects list. Bell was ranked as the 51st-best free safety and as the No. 2 free safety in NCAA Division III.

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“It felt great to be noticed,” said Bell. “I’m not going to settle with what I’ve accomplished, and I know the team will not settle with what we have done. There is more to do.”

In 2019, Bell was a Second Team All-America pick by and earned First Team All-ASC honors and All-South Region honors for a third consecutive season. Bell racked up 48 tackles with an interception and a half-sack last season.

In his career, Bell has 11 career interceptions, 156 total tackles, nine pass break-ups, and one interception returned for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs were ranked in the Top 25 and in the regional rankings at times during the 2019 season, and TLU played for the conference championship on Nov. 9 at then-defending national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor.

TLU’s eight wins in the ASC were the most by a Bulldog squad in the university’s 18 seasons in the ASC (1998-2012, 2017-present).

The eight overall wins marked just the eighth time in TLU’s 85 football seasons that the Bulldogs have won that many games in a single season.

The Bulldogs were picked fourth in the 2019 ASC Preseason Football Poll. TLU was picked behind UMHB, Hardin-Simmons, and East Texas Baptist.

TLU defeated ETBU on the road on Sept. 21 and then defeated then-No. 6 HSU on the road on Oct. 5. The win over HSU was the second win for TLU all-time at the Cowboys’ Shelton Stadium.

The wins over ETBU and HSU were part of the Bulldogs’ seven-game win streak entering the UMHB game.

Bell and the TLU defense combined with the TLU offense to produce a team turnover margin per game of plus-1.5. The Bulldogs’ turnover margin ranked sixth in NCAA Division III.

The TLU defense also ranked 12th nationally in defensive touchdowns, with four, and ranked 23rd in fumbles recovered, with 12.

The Bulldog defense ranked 24th in sacks, at 3.2 per contest, and 30th in team tackles for loss, at 8.0 per game.

TLU Athletics is preparing for its 2020 fall sports seasons with the hope that the seasons start as scheduled but with the knowledge that the seasons could be much different than originally planned.

“TLU’s administration and our athletics office have worked closely together since the early days of the pandemic to imagine what our fall and spring sports seasons will look like in 2020 and 2021 in the midst of COVID-19,” said Bill Miller, TLU’s director of athletics. “We would like to say that everything will be as it once was in years past, but we know that changes will and must be made. Right now we don’t know specifically what those changes are, but we are working extremely hard to plan and prepare.”

“Planning for athletics at TLU is part of a larger effort underway at TLU to ensure that our campus is opened safely in the fall, providing our students with opportunities guided by the new environment we are in. We are working closely with our partners in the NCAA, the NCAA Division III, and our two conferences – the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and the American Southwest Conference – to start our seasons at some point this fall and to play schedules that lead to championship opportunities, whether those opportunities present themselves at the conference level or at the national level.”

TLU plays official NCAA fall schedules in the following sports: football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, women’s cross country, and men’s cross country. The Bulldogs play in the American Southwest Conference for football. The rest of TLU’s fall and spring sports (except for men’s and women’s indoor track & field) compete in the SCAC. TLU’s teams in men’s and women’s indoor track & field compete as NCAA independents since the SCAC does not sponsor the sport among its members.

TLU is tentatively scheduled to begin its 2020 football season with a Sept. 5 road game in Conway, Ark., against Hendrix College. The Bulldogs’ first home game, and first conference contest, is tentatively set for Sept. 12 in TLU’s Bulldog Stadium against Howard Payne. Both games are scheduled for 6 p.m. kickoffs.

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