Around the Region
Things are adding up for TLU linebacker
|Do the math: There's a lot to like about what TLU linebacker Emory Cuzze brings to the field.
Texas Lutheran athletics photo
By Brian Lester
No one can say that it’s a surprise Texas Lutheran linebacker Emory Cuzze has always been a math and science guy.
His great grandfather, after all, worked for NASA.
“We took a vacation to see him, and he had all of these cool knickknacks from NASA when he was there,” Cuzze said. “We also went to Cape Canaveral with him. It was a cool experience.”
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t his great grandfather’s background that inspired his love of science and math. He started out majoring in chemistry at TLU and has since switched to math.
“I am not much of an English or history guy. I always enjoyed math, and I remember my grandma and I sitting down and doing math when I was little,” Cuzze said. “I’ve always enjoyed science because it seemed interesting. I like learning how things work together.”
Cuzze and his teammates seem to have success down to a science, particularly on defense where the Bulldogs are one of the best in the nation against the run, allowing 364 yards in six games, an average of 60.7 yards per game.
The Bulldogs took perhaps their biggest step forward this past weekend when they overcame a 24-14 halftime deficit to earn a 40-34 win over a high-scoring East Texas Baptist team that came in averaging 53 points per outing. TLU allowed 10 points in the second half and nothing in the fourth quarter.
“I think our success is due to what we do in practice every day,” Cuzze said. “Our coach has us so prepared, and we run so much in practice that we don’t feel tired in games. We’re all in shape, and it’s why we do so well late in the game, especially in the fourth quarter.”
TLU coach Carl Gustafson was impressed with what his team was able to accomplish against the Tigers as the Bulldogs stretched their win streak to three games.
“Our defense came up with big plays at the right time,” Gustafson said. “We knew they would get yards and score points, but we made them work for it. We had a bend-but-not-break mentality.”
Cuzze said the players have approached their attack on defense with a refreshed look after top-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor crushed TLU 50-7 nearly a month ago.
The Bulldogs have been rolling ever since and have already doubled their win total from a year ago. They are 4-2 overall heading into a crucial ASC showdown with Hardin-Simmons.
“That loss to UMHB was a wake-up call for us. As players, we came together, and the last three weeks we have shown how good of a team we can be,” Cuzze said. “We have gotten better and better as a team, and this past week -- we proved that we are good enough to play with anybody.”
Cuzze has been an integral part of the defense. With 40 tackles, he leads the team in that category. He has three sacks as well.
Several people have had a big influence on his growth as a football player at the college level, including assistant coach Jake Bahr, who Cuzze played behind when he arrived on campus as a freshman and learned the ropes from. They are now close friends.
Former TLU linebacker Darian Candler also impacted Cuzze. Candler was the team's leading tackler last year.
“He can flat out play the game and really helped me with my confidence,” Cuzze said. “He was always that guy in the right place at the right time on the field, and he made me want to be that type of player and play the game the way he did.”
Defensive coordinator Ricky Matt has played a key role in Cuzze’s career as well.
“He’s taught us to play with a chip on our shoulder and that extra effort,” Cuzze said. “He’s always talking about effort and effort is everything to us.”
Cuzze said he came to campus with the mindset that because he was a freshman, he wasn’t going to have an opportunity to play much right away.
“I went out and took my role on well and was on all of the special teams,” Cuzze said. “I played hard.”
He finished his freshman season with 16 tackles and ranked second on the team last year with 74.
“Emory is the kind of player you look for on your defense,” Gustafson said. “He’s a great leader, a smart player and extremely tough. He’s also a player his teammates respect because of how he handles himself on and off the field.”
Although Cuzze loves math and science, his ultimate goal is to coach football because he calls the sport his passion. He notes that he actually gets his best grades during the season because he understands how important it is to keep up with his academics during that time of the year.
Sure, it’s tough at times to juggle school and football, but it’s an experience he wouldn’t trade for the world. His message to those considering playing beyond high school is an inspiring one.
“If you have the opportunity, take it,” Cuzze said. “This is where you create bonds and make friends you’ll have for life. And even if you don’t think you will play or get to start, if you work hard enough, and do that every day, week in and week out, you are going to get your chance. It’s definitely worth it.”
Hayes doesn’t miss a beat for Centre
Devin Hayes returned to the Centre lineup, and it looked as if he had never missed a game. Hayes threw 24 passes, completing 17, while throwing for 195 yards and two touchdowns as he helped the Colonels knock off Trinity 27-21 on the road in a pivotal SAA showdown.
Trinity came into the game as one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in league play but saw its fourth-quarter rally fall short.
The Colonels have won their last two games and are 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference. They are still alive in the hunt for a conference title but need to win out and get a little help.
Hayes has played a key role for the Colonels, completing close to 60 percent of his passes and throwing for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns. He didn’t throw any interceptions against Trinity, marking the second time this season he hasn’t been picked off in a game.
- Colt Collins had himself a performance to remember and led Austin to its first SAA win in the process. Collins threw three touchdown passes and ran for another as the Kangaroos knocked off Millsaps 33-19. Collins finished his day throwing for 239 yards, and he also led the team in rushing with 38 yards. He connected with Kyle Mucerino on two of his scoring strikes. Collins has thrown nine touchdown passes this season.
- Frederick Hover did it all for Southwestern, accounting for seven touchdowns as the Pirates smashed Belhaven 60-31. Hover threw four touchdown passes, ran for two scores and caught a pass as he rolled up 444 yards. The Pirates finished with 689 yards as a team. The win was the second in a row for Southwestern, which is 4-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference. The Pirates have three games left and need two wins to secure their second consecutive winning season.
- Orel Ledet Jr. nearly scored off an interception for the second time in as many games Saturday, coming up three yards shy of the end zone. He also racked up nine tackles and helped push Louisiana College to a 52-34 win over McMurry. The win snapped a four-game losing streak. Ledet ranks second on the team in tackles with 48 and has picked off three passes. He has also forced a fumble for a Wildcats team that is 2-4 overall and 1-4 in the conference.
- Sewanee didn’t win a game last year. The Tigers are a different team this season, winning their third game of the season with a 34-13 win over Birmingham Southern. The win snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with the Panthers. They cranked out 400-plus yards for the fifth time and Michael Maes helped fuel the attack. The Tigers' leading receiver threw his first pass of the year, and it was good for a touchdown as he connected with Allan Parrott on a 65-yard scoring strike. He also caught one pass for 39 yards and has 27 catches for 273 yards on the year.
Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.
2014 columnist: Justin Goldberg
2013 columnist: Andee Djuric
2012 columnist: Kyle Robarts
2008-11 columnist: Jason Bowen