LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The West’s two ranked teams will be in action Saturday, Oct. 29, but 11th-ranked Colorado State will no longer be found atop the conference’s standings table.
It’s been determined that both Colorado and Colorado State unintentionally used ineligible players during its Oct. 1 contest against one another, and the fixture has been ruled a double forfeit. The consequences of the inadvertent violations docks Colorado State the five points it earned in its 40-33 win plus an additional point due to the forfeit, while Colorado will be without the two points it took away from the defeat and an additional point for the forfeit, as well.
The unfavorable news hurts the Rams chances of winning the West, but does not completely eliminate them. If Colorado can upset Air Force on the road then a Colorado State win over Wyoming would put the Rams right back in contention for the conference title they once looked destined to claim.
Colorado vs. #12 Air Force
Air Force is coming off a bye week from West Conference play, however, the Zoomies were still in action last week. A core group of sevens players prepared for and traveled to California for one of the most competitive tournaments of the season – West Coast Sevens at Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif.
The tournament in the midst of its 15s season was a slight distraction, but extremely beneficial for the players who competed in a field that included D1A Rugby Top 20 sides Arizona State, Cal, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, UCLA, Utah and eventual Cup Final winner – Arizona.
“The jump into a solid sevens competition exposed the players to a high level of play and provided them the opportunity to hone their open field skills,” said Air Force Head Coach Denny Merideth.
Additional work in the open field for the Falcons backline couldn’t hurt going into its contest with the Buffaloes. Colorado has several shifty playmakers that Air Force will need to slow down including scrum half Even Clark and outside backs Kellen McDonald and Kip Nilson. Even with the talent along Colorado’s backline, Air Force has taken notice of the work the Buffalo forwards have been putting in.
“Colorado is always a well-coached side that fields some very tough players,” Merideth said. “They will play with a high degree of energy and their pack will be extremely tough.”
One thing Merideth and his staff isn’t concerned with is the focus of the team. Less than a week after Air Force battles Colorado, the Zoomies well head to West Point for a Nov. 4 match against Army. The annual fixture is not only an important game because it pits Air Force against D1A Rugby’s seventh-ranked team, but because the two military academies maintain one of the most distinguished rivalries in college sports.
“One week at a time has to be our focus,” Merideth confirmed. “The Colorado match has a lot of significance within the West and tends to be a very competitive match, so we cannot waste any brain cells looking out further than this Saturday.”
Wyoming vs. #11 Colorado State
Colorado State is coming off a bye week after four consecutive wins that included victories over two Top 20 teams – Air Force and Utah. The Rams used the off week to rest some players dealing with nagging injuries, but also let the captains run its Friday training session in order to mix things up.
“The lads had some fun with that, and we have come back this week looking really focused and switched on,” said Colorado State Coach Rod Hartley. “We have been practicing well all week in the lead up to our match with Wyoming.”
Colorado State might be undefeated and closing in on a top-ten ranking, while the Cowboys have dropped three consecutive matches, but the Rams know the Wyoming program too well to let this week of training go to waste.
“Wyoming is always tough and if you are not on top of your game and match their aggression at the breakdown they will make you pay,” Hartley said. “Coach Dave Finnoff is an outstanding coach who always has his team prepared and ready to play. And with a little Border War pride – that adds a little more emotion to the contest that’s always a great battle and one we look forward to each season.”
Wyoming, which has been playing without several starters due to injuries, has been dealt another blow to its first XV. Lock Cody Wichman went down with a knee injury during last week’s loss to Colorado. The loss of Wichman is especially hampering given the excellent form Colorado State has been keeping up over the past month.
“The Rams are always tough to beat,” acknowledged Wyoming Head Coach Dave Finnoff. “They have a large squad that is passionate about rugby, their coaches are good, they have some really high quality athletes and they play good rugby at a high pace.”
Saturday’s matchup will be Wyoming’s final West game of the year. Although a nasty string of injuries prevented the Cowboys from taking a legitimate stab at this year’s conference title, a win over the highly ranked Rams would be gratifying end to their season.
“Our team wants a win desperately,” Finnoff confirmed. “Although we lost another key starter due to injury this week, the team really wants to send out our seniors on a high note.”