The first Barnburner for the 2012 Men’s D1A rugby season is here! Oklahoma will be traveling down to College Station, Texas to face Texas A&M in a Mid-South bout! Texas A&M and Oklahoma both played last week and lost to Arkansas State and Life, respectively. The match will be played Saturday, February 25 and will kick off at 1:00 pm Central Time.
Depending on the route you take, there are roughly 360 miles that separate the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M. These two universities possess storied athletic traditions and prodigious pride. The impending departure of Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the SEC is bringing the athletic rivalry between these two schools to an end. However, the rivalry will remain in rugby as these two teams compete with each other in the Mid-South Conference.
Texas A&M and Oklahoma play each other often and have split recent contests dating back to the 2011 College Sevens Championship and before. Texas A&M Director of Rugby, Craig Coates, feels the Sooners and Aggies have a healthy rivalry. “We play them every year in the unofficial Big 12 rugby title match, we compete for recruits, especially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and a lot of these guys have played together or against each other since high school.”
This weekend’s match is the second conference match between these two teams since the elite college men’s competition began in 2011. In the first week of the 2011 season Texas A&M defeated Oklahoma 28-18 in Norman, Okla. In that match A&M jumped to an early lead that enabled them to withstand the Sooners furious comeback in the last ten minutes of the match.
The 2012 matchup is more than likely going to be another close contest, even though the players on the field will be different for both teams. On the Oklahoma roster against Life, the Sooners had a total of three returning starters from their match at the equivalent point of last season, which happened to be their match against Texas A&M.
Oklahoma coach, Kenneth Forehand, realizes their situation and embraces it with a forward focus. “We have some young players who are going to step up and be starters for us. We need to show them some success early.”
Due to poor weather Texas A&M had little match preparation for their game against Arkansas State and Coates felt that the Aggies were caught by surprise at the speed and intensity of the new Division 1A season. “The things that caught us off guard against ASU were the speed and intensity, especially at the breakdown. Having another week to prepare with this in mind will have the team ready to play Saturday.”
With a trip to Marietta, Ga. to face Life ahead in week three, and a trip to Jonesboro, Ark. to face Arkansas State behind them, Texas A&M will be happy to face the Sooners on the comfort of their home turf. Coates of A&M happily welcomes the home match for the Aggies. “Playing at home is a big deal because you are comfortable in the environment and with the current format, you have to win all your home matches to remain in contention for the playoffs.”
This week’s Barnburner may be the first time the Sooners and Aggies face off in D1A play this season, but it is by no means a warm-up match. Every game counts in Division 1A, and the winner of this match will be thrust into a much more favorable position for playoff potential at 1-1 than the loser at 0-2.
Coates said it plainly, “Nobody wants to be 0-2.”
Along with an improved record, a win will bring the victors an, always welcomed, early season confidence boost in the team’s abilities.