Big Ten powerhouse Indiana University Hoosiers will host Ohio State University Buckeyes in the final match of the regular Fall season. Indiana has exhibited some stellar rugby in the past several months. Going into the weekend, Indiana club President Stephen Fairley reflects the team’s confidence and approach; “We’re just looking to have a good test match before the Big Ten championship game next week.”
Indiana houses seven of the top 20 scoring players in all of the Big Ten conference. Throughout the match, Indiana will look to senior captain Isaac Hall at the 8-man slot, fifth scoring leader putting down seven try’s over the season. Hall sits behind flyhalf Jonathan Enari who is the fourth ranked point earner bringing in 49 total points to date. Other notables include Thomas Dehnke and Matt Duncan covering the wings, Tyler Graham at flank, as well as Bryce and Jacob Campbell keeping the walls tight as centers.
The Hoosiers lineup has proven quite capable and identified their squad as an early contender among the Big Ten. “We leave it to the guys on the field, especially our captain and leaders in the back line, to make game-time decisions and whatever pressures we need to deal with,” says Fairley. “We are pretty confident in all of our players so we’d like to move the ball around.”
Ohio State Buckeyes certainly have the odds stacked against them. Indiana has gone undefeated while the Buckeyes have faced close games and challenges, coming into the match with a 3-2 record. In order for Ohio State to stand a chance to make it into the championships, they will not only will need to beat Indiana and score a bonus point, but both Wisconsin as well as Michigan will need to loose their matches by 7 points. On the surface it does seem unlikely, but there’s always a fighting chance on a cold Fall Saturday afternoon.
For Ohio State Coach Tom Rooney, “this is a game of attrition. Who can get to the end with most of their players left,” bringing us to the Buckeyes taking the pitch. This season Ohio has seen a surge of underclassmen talent, many of which rose to the occasion. The success of Taylor Hurff and Ian Hildebrandt at the nine/ten combination as sophomore leaders is encouraging for the Buckeyes future. Hurff stands near the top of the Big Ten scoring list contributing a total of 57 points, second only behind Wisconsin’s Flyhalf Jordi Heginbottom who has brought in 64 points. “That freshman and sophomore class for us has done real good work. It looks like a whole new group and a whole new core. I am excited about the future,” says Rooney.
Opportunities that have given way to underclassman can be attributed to a rocky Fall for more seasoned players. Scrumhalf Luke Hickey has had a mixed season with injuries and illness, as well as Bryan Hoffman. Rooney states, “This has been just as much a push to the seniors than it is the underclassmen.”
Indiana and Ohio do match up quite well at the onset, though a couple of factors will seal the Buckeye’s fate. The wet weather really crippled Ohio’s success against Michigan in their matchup, whereas Indiana will likely find a seamless transition to the elements. When all is said and done, Ohio State is fighting for their regular season lives at the moment. Mathematically, it is possible for them to remain contenders, but it will start with the upset of the season – no tall order there.
Kickoff for all the marbles is at 1:00pm at Indiana University.