BOULDER, Colo. – A dominating, 51-15, win over Baylor this past weekend sealed a second-place finish for Texas A&M in the Red River Conference. After falling to eventual conference champion Oklahoma to open their Red River season, the Aggies have reeled off four straight wins – none of which were more impressive than the 36-point victory against the Bears.
Jake Browning, A&M’s powerful lock who notched a hat trick against TCU and dotted down another score versus Baylor, believes the team is still seeking a complete 80-minute performance.
“We came out rather slow in the first half,” explained the second rower. “We didn’t have very good line speed on defense.”
First-year Head Coach Clayton Hayes addressed the lack of urgency on defense, and the Aggies proceeded to pound Baylor further into the ground in the second stanza.
The impressive 4-1 finish in the Red River didn’t surprise the Texas A&M roster, but many outside of the program were not expecting the Aggies to place second. However, what many people perceived as a rebuilding year for the team due to Hayes being in his first year at the helm actually took place last year. A season ago, A&M was replacing 13 starters who graduated after the 2012-13 season, and long-time head coach Brett Mills was leading a team with one foot already out the door.
“There is a lot more accountability amongst the team this year, as well as competition between guys working to be in the first XV,” Browning said of the improved atmosphere in College Station this season.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, their winning streak hasn’t been seen as enough to validate place in the D1A Rugby Top 20. Wins against TCU and Texas Tech didn’t appear to leave D1A poll voters’ jaws on the floor, and the University of Texas’ inconsistent play made A&M’s 26-17 win over the Longhorns less notable.
Regardless, the door is not shut on the Aggies’ playoff hopes. The most recent win over Baylor is sure to garner some attention, and the team still has a number of quality contests to play in, starting with a nonconference match against Texas Feb. 21. Following its rematch with the Longhorns, A&M will play Louisiana State as well as its traditional affair with Arkansas State.