LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Five Red River teams return to conference action for the first time in 2017 in a slate of three D1A Rugby games, while Baylor hopes to build off the 25-20 victory over Arkansas it recorded last week.
Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech
The Sooners will have revenge on their minds when they host the Red Raiders this weekend. After cruising to a 55-0 shutout over TCU to open league play, Oklahoma was surprisingly defeated by Texas Tech to even its Red River record to 1-1.
“We are young in many spots, and I think we were too happy with our early results,” Oklahoma Head Coach Doug Neubauer said back in November of the team being outplayed by the Red Raiders.
Now that Texas Tech has the Sooners full attention, a much better effort can be expected of the North Division favorite. Still, Oklahoma will likely have some dust to knock off its boots before it can stand toe-to-toe with the Red Raiders. Last week’s contest against UTEP was canceled, leaving Oklahoma without an 80-minute warm up ahead of its first conference match in over three months.
The Red Raiders, on the other hand, got its first run out of 2017 against the Austin Blacks Division III side. Alec Brown, Steven Collins and Mike McCabe were able to score tries for Texas Tech, but it wasn’t enough as the Black won, 43-19.
Baylor vs. Texas A&M
Baylor had to deal with the taste of November’s 37-0 loss to Oklahoma through the New Year until it was able to cleanse itself with a hard-fought 25-20 win over Arkansas. Texas A&M, however, could be capable of bringing a skill set to the table that the Bears have yet to see this season.
The Aggies won their first three games of the Red River season in decisive fashion before dropping its lone conference game of the season to LSU. The loss to the Tigers came with no shame, though. LSU went undefeated on its way to the 2016 Red River title, and Texas A&M was on the road for its 36-26 loss to the defending conference champions back in November.
There will be a couple of key battles to keep an eye on. Each team’s best player will likely suit up in the No. 8 jumper – Baylor’s Pete Hamm and Texas A&M’s Braeden Hood. Both Hamm and Hood are relentless on defense and very difficult to bring down with ball in-hand. The other intriguing storyline in the Jan. 28 fixture is in the coaching box. Baylor lead man Mason Hering is a close personal friend of Aggies Head Coach James Lowrey, meaning bragging rights will be on the line.
Houston vs. LSU
The Cougars first match of 2017 might not be the best time to judge how far the team has come after the fall portion of its season. The 2016-17 season figured to come with its bumps and bruises because it marked Houston’s first year in D1A Rugby and the Red River Conference, and this weekend’s game against LSU won’t be any easier.
The Tigers have picked up where they finished the 2015-16 season. LSU won its three Red River matches in the fall by an average of 36 points per contest and are the only team in the Red River currently ranked the Canterbury’s D1A Rugby Top 20. Flanker and All-American Brennan Falcon has already scored five tries, and senior full back Chaz Mitchell carries a strike rate of two tries per game.