SOUTHFIELD, Michigan – This fall was like no other for Lawrence Technological University. After the resurrection of athletics in 2011, it took an additional six years for Lawrence Tech to announce the reboot of its football program.
LTU hadn't sponsored a football program since 1946, when the school was referred to as its original form, the Lawrence Institute of Technology. This wasn't the first time the administration had decided to bring football back. That 1946 season was a reboot campaign itself after the team folded in 1941 due to a lack of facilities with a growing enrollment.
But that was then. The landscape of college football has drastically changed since the Blue Devils took to the gridiron last, and never before had LTU sprinted onto the field in front of its fans in Southfield. In fact, Southfield had never played host to a collegiate football game – that was until September 1, 2018.
After a full year of recruiting and practices, head coach Jeff Duvendeck and his Blue Devils were more than ready for the reboot season. It was a feeling made evident on the opening drive against the two-time National Club Football Association National Champion, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Quarterback Tyler Kulka (FR/Clinton Township, MI) engineered a seven play drive that resulted in a 31-yard pass to Spencer Iaquinto (FR/Whitmore Lake, MI) for the first Lawrence Tech touchdown in the modern era. That score was one of many in that first outing, as LTU notched a program-best 53 points, a mark that would be bested three more times throughout the season.
Football's crowds had been something the Southfield campus had never seen before. More than 3,800 of Blue and White faithful piled into the LTU Athletic Field with a listed capacity of 2,000. In three home games this fall, 8,691 fans came to be a part of the reboot campaign.
The opening victory against the Golden Grizzlies started the Blue Devils on a run, a historic run. Lawrence Tech kicked off its reboot season 5-0, marking a program record in consecutive wins. The five decisions are tied for the second-most wins in a single season behind the 1940 team's six. The five-win mark represented more than just a program best in straight decisions, but was the most victories posted by a first-year coach in program history, topping the four wins LIT claimed in the first and only season for C. MacGillivray in 1937.
Despite the season ending with three-consecutive losses – one coming by the hands of NCAA Division II Northern Michigan - the Blue Devils posted some remarkable numbers in year one. LTU averaged 41.0 points per game, which would rank seventh in the NAIA and second in conference. No other Lawrence Tech football team averaged more than 19.6 points per outing - a mark that was set by the 1941 team. The scoring came from more than just the offense, as the defense scored five times (3 scoop-n-scores, 2 pick sixes) with two safeties, and the special teams brought back two punts and blocked another in the endzone.
The defense pitched a pair of shutouts early on in the campaign against Pittsburgh (club) and Eastern Michigan (club). Up until Trinity Bible tallied its lone score against LTU at the 12:27 mark of the fourth quarter on October 6, the Blue Devils had held their opponents scoreless for 3:07.19 of game time. It wasn't until the homecoming game on October 13 that Lawrence Tech's defense surrendered a rushing touchdown.
LTU's defense ranked No. 1 in the NAIA – if stats from all games counted – in yards allowed per game after the first five outings. After holding Trinity Bible to 111 yards for the whole contest, the Blue Devils were limiting opponents to just 105.0 yards of total offense per game. Only two of the Blue Devils opponents mustered more than 100 yards against the defense through five efforts – Wisconsin Lutheran with 292 and Trinity Bible with 111. LTU's opposition was only putting up 24.2 rushing yards per game to date. The defense imposed its will against Pitt, holding the Panthers to -5 total yards – 20 passing and -25 rushing.
Next season the Blue Devils will enjoy full membership in the Mid-States Football Association, which has claimed six of the past seven national champions. The MSFA had three of the eight quarterfinalist this season, with St. Francis (Ind.) still playing for its third-consecutive national title.
Lawrence Tech's 2019-20 slate will be released later this winter, along with the date of the Second Blue vs. White Spring Game. Ticket information for the upcoming season will be released with the schedule.