When the BYU Cougars take the field for the 2012 Men’s D1A National Championship game on Saturday it will be the seventh year in a row they have had a shot at the title. In 2009 they defeated mighty Cal for their first ever national title and since then have lost two close Championship bouts. Arkansas State has never been to a D1A National Championship. The closest the Red Wolves have been to a D1A title game was in 2011 when they lost to none other than BYU in the national semifinals at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado. The match this weekend is monumental on many levels and is shaping up to be a game that will be remembered for the ages.
BYU does not have to travel too far to get to Rio Tinto Stadium. In fact, it is basically a home match for the Cougars, which will give them added comfort and a solid support section. On the contrary, Arkansas State is traveling over 1,000 miles and will be enjoying the comfort of their hotel rooms and hospitality from the wonderful people of Utah.
It is safe to say the off-field experiences for the two teams will be quite different. The resting places and spaces to prepare will differ between the two teams, yet all the players undoubtedly share a burning fire within them to destroy their opponent on Saturday in hopes of achieving lasting glory that is held only in a National Championship.
Arkansas State may feel as if they have something to prove. The only team the Red Wolves lost to this season was Life, who BYU narrowly defeated last week 26-20 on the road in Marietta, Georgia. Arkansas State lost by 16 points then by 4 points to Life this season, which put them in the #2 seed out of the Mid-South. Life may be bitter about the fact they are out of the title hunt and the team they beat twice this season is playing for the Championship, but no one has ever won a title in the regular season.
To be the best you must beat the best. BYU beat one of the best last week and have defeated the likes of St. Mary’s, Utah, the Denver Barbarians, and OPSB this season. The only team left for the Cougars to beat is Arkansas State, as BYU is the only team that Arkansas State must beat. An Arkansas State victory on Saturday will erase the bitter taste of regular season defeat they felt at the hands of their division rivals Life and will also erase last season’s semifinal loss from immediate memory.
It would be unfair to say that one team has worked harder than the other to get to this point. Both squads are products of two of the top rugby programs in America and neither team has taken a second off in months. The statistics put up by both teams are, for the most part, head and shoulders above the rest of the country and the skill levels and team chemistry felt are equal to those held by Super League teams.
As genuine college rugby supporters we could not ask for a better matchup and a finer representation of where rugby in America is headed. No matter the outcome of the match all men on the field of play Saturday will never forget the experiences they had leading up to the Championship. Win or lose, the chance to play for a National Championship in any sport is an event that only a few people ever get the chance to participate in. The emotion and passion within these players will be felt throughout the crowd and it is sure to be an electric evening.