SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – In front of an over-capacity crowd on Saturday, September 1, Lawrence Technological University hosted its first football game since 1946 in record fashion. The Blue Devils put up a program record in points, defeating Oakland University, 53-14.
After completing three quarters of play, the game was called due to inclement weather in the area.
With a listed capacity of 2,000 at the LTU Athletic Field, 3,872 Blue Devil faithful piled into the newly renovated complex to witness Southfield's first college football game and Lawrence Tech's first since 1946. Joining captains James Thorpe (FR/Largo, FL), Matt Esterle (FR/Akron, OH), Cam Mitchell (FR/Mount Clemens, MI) and Spencer Iaquinto(FR/Whitmore Lake, MI) at midfield for the coin toss was LTU President Emeritus Dr. Richard Marburger, LTU President Dr. Virinder K. Moudgil, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver.
"The game atmosphere was phenomenal," said head coach Jeff Duvendeck. "Our kids executed. They've had a lot of time to work on what we want them to do. I was excited to see that, especially because we didn't know what they were going to see defensively.
"He (Kulka) did a great job and made good decisions. He put the ball where it needed to be and saw a lot of things pre-snap. He was very communicative on the sideline, so he was seeing things well and making good decisions off that."
The Blue Devils put up 334 yards of total offense, as the defense held Oakland to just 72 total yards, highlighted by negative one rushing.
Tyler Kulka (FR/Clinton Township, MI) put together a highlight-filled performance, passing for 257 yards and four touchdowns. Kulka completed 14-of-20, finding eight different receivers. He also scored his first rushing touchdown since his playing days in elementary school.
Swoll back C.J. Thompson led all receivers with 77 yards, including a 37-yard strike from Kulka in the second quarter. Cameron Jamison (FR/Burbank, WA) hauled in two receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Spencer Iaquinto scored the first touchdown in program history since November of 1946 when Lawrence Tech (1-0) was known as Lawrence Institute of Technology. Iaquinto finished with two catches and 38 yards. Terrel Cunningham (FR/Northsville, MI) brought in Kulka's fourth touchdown pass, scoring from 27 yards out. Ahmad Sabbagh (FR/Dearborn Heights, MI) led the Blue Devils with 30 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
"They (OU) played a lot of cover one and man stuff," Kulka said. "We were able to utilize that to our advantage and a lot of receivers got open."
Defensively, linebackers Robbie Best (FR/Struthers, OH) and Thomas Lappin (FR/Howell, MI) set the pace with six tackles apiece. Fourteen different Blue Devils recorded tackles for loss in the effort. Best scored on an 11-yard scoop-n-score in the third quarter to give LTU a 47-14 advantage. The defensive line, known amongst the Blue and White as the Legion of Doom, notched four sacks led by Tommy Larson (FR/Whitelake, MI). Andrew Campbell (FR/Traverse City, MI) wreaked havoc from his defensive back position with four tackles, three for loss, and a pass break up. Esterle finished the afternoon with four tackles, 1.5 for loss and combined on a sack.
"We have been waiting so long (to play)," said Esterle. "The coaches and returners hadn't played a game in 1,000 days, so it was exciting to get back out there and hit somebody else."
Lawrence Tech wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, punching it in from 31 yards on its opening possession. Facing fourth and two, Kulka found Iaquinto streaking down toward the goal line. It was Kulka's third completion on the drive.
The Golden Grizzlies (0-1) responded on the ensuing possession that was kept alive by a pair of 15-yard penalties by the Blue Devils. Kulka and the offense held serve though with a touchdown drive that was capped by a 27-yard score from Cunningham, who made a pair of defenders miss inside the 10-yard line on his way to the endzone.
Oakland would not go down without a fight though, driving 49 yards to knot the game at 14 all with an 11-yard pass and catch from Ben Hajciar to Chris Ross, Jr. The next possession though, the offense kept rolling with the connection of Kulka and Thompson. On third and 14, Kulka threaded the needle between two defenders to Thompson. An 11-yard play between the two later in the series setup Kulka's two-yard touchdown scamper.
The defense locked in late in the second quarter and wouldn't surrender another point. The game was broken wide open coming out of the locker room as the blue Devils forced a safety just 49 seconds into the half, then would score a pair of touchdowns and a field goal over the next eight minutes.
Lawrence Tech moves to 6-4-1 all-time in season openers. The 53 points put up by the Blue Devils sets a new program record, topping the 1941 squad's mark of 47.
LTU returns to the field next week at Wisconsin Lutheran on Saturday, September 8.