SEGUIN, Texas - Last year, the Texas Lutheran University football team competed in the American Southwest Conference for the first time since 2012, and the Bulldogs showed they belonged, finishing with a 6-3 record in conference play, good for fourth in the ASC standings.
But that was last year.
"We feel like we have unfinished business," said head coach Carl Gustafson. "We want to win a conference championship and we want to be in the playoffs. Our team has been working toward that probably since our last game last year."
Those expectations are justified based on the team's experience. The Bulldogs return all but four starters from last year's roster - three on offense, one on defense - and that consistency has helped the team get a head start on the 2018 season.
"I think we came into this year healthier, stronger and more knowledgeable than we did in the past," senior offensive lineman Chris Bennett explained. "I think as a team we're coming in with a certain vigor and a bad taste in our mouths, ready to handle opponents that we didn't get to properly deal with last year. I believe we're going to have a legitimate run this year. We've got the team to do it and we've got the coaching staff behind us to give us the tools and know-how to get things done."
"We're a hungry team and ready to fight to the top," said senior outside linebacker Jacob Guercia.
Since the roster has mostly remained the same, the team is taking what they learned about themselves in 2017 and applying it to this season.
"Offensively, we took a lot of pride in running the football, being physical and being a balanced attack," Gustafson explained. "We want to see those same things. We want to see our defense pick up where it left off with their toughness and physicality. We want our guys to play with some self confidence. I think you have to be that way if you expect to win."
"I want to see everyone flying around, flying to the ball and hitting people," said Bennett. "If we control the line of scrimmage, we feel like everything is going to take care of itself."
The Bulldogs have already shown improvement this season, currently sitting at 2-1 on the season. TLU won their first two games by a combined margin of 42-14 before suffering their first loss of the season to nationally-ranked powerhouse University of Mary Hardin-Baylor 47-14 this past Saturday. So far, the Bulldogs have done exactly what they've planned to do: run the ball and play physical defense. They've nearly doubled up their opponents in rushing yards and forced eight turnovers. All positive signs, but the team know's that this is a long season.
"We've got some work to do," Gustafson said. "We're not where we want to be yet, but we're excited about this group. They're working really hard, they're fun to be around and they're a great group of young men."
Next up for the Bulldogs, Homecoming against McMurry University this Saturday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.
Copyright 2018 by KSAT - All rights reserved.