BOULDER, Colo. – It is about halfway through the D1A Rugby season, and Indiana has been rolling over every team in its way. The Hoosiers have gone undefeated against the Big Ten, including a convincing, 123-10, victory over Iowa last week, but this week brings a challenge – the likes of which it has yet to see this season. Mid-South’s Davenport will make its way down to Bloomington, Ind., to test the true strength of Indiana.
Davenport has been playing matches since the beginning of September in preparation for the gauntlet that is the Mid-South. The Panthers traveled to Canada for their first 15s match of the year to play University of Western Ontario, but weren’t able to come away with a win, losing, 28-7. They had success against both Western Michigan and Bowling Green State, good D1AA teams, but lost to Division I club team Chicago Lions, 67-7. The teams that Davenport has played so far are solid teams, but Indiana could give the Panthers their toughest test from a college squad before they start conference play.
“Indiana is a tough, well-coached team,” said Davenport Head Coach James Wood. “I have no doubt that they will give us all we can handle. With that said, it’s imperative that anyone who sees the field Saturday for us puts their best foot forward. To win this one we need the team to work together on all fronts and have a banner day as a group.”
Meanwhile, Indiana has been running the show in the Big Ten. It has easily handled the beginning part of its season, winning by impressive margins, such as their 41-7 win over D1A Top 20 team Michigan. Other than a meeting with Wisconsin later in the season, Davenport will be the last really tough challenge on Indiana’s schedule. Even though this match threatens Indiana’s undefeated streak, a meeting with Davenport will better prepare the Hoosiers for what awaits them in the playoffs.
A big reason why Indiana has been so successful for the last few years has been the play of its backs. Bryce Campbell, Jake Hidalgo, and Teddy Terezis each have tremendous speed and ability to run through guys. Terezis has seven tries so far this season, and an outstanding 35 conversions through the first four conference games. Hidalgo has nine tries so far this season, and Campbell has taken the leadership role for the dominating Hoosier backs.
“The simple answer [to Indiana’s backs] would be to limit their time with the ball in hand, but that’s likely easier said than done,” said Wood. “We will have to do a good job picking our heads up and matching numbers as well as working hard to get off the gain line to take away their space and time to operate.”
Davenport will continue to grow after the departure of All-American players JP Eloff and Angus MacLellan, but it isn’t dwelling on the loss of players. Instead, testing new talent against the likes of Indiana will quickly bring the new guys up to speed.
Indiana had the opportunity to play a great opponent last year when it faced Lindenwood, but fell, 56-27. The Hoosiers went down early, trailing, 28-14, at the half, and weren’t able to recover. Lindenwood would go on to make it to the Semifinals of the D1A Playoffs. The game was in late August, a big test only a week into the season, and the Hoosiers were not highly ranked like they are now, so this match against the Mid-South opponent comes at a more opportune time for Indiana.
In addition to the Indiana-Davenport match, fellow Mid-South side Life will be playing its first nonconference match of the season against Clemson. Life took this match last season, 51-0, even with stretches of good play from Clemson. This will be the first game at the helm for new Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence, who is taking over from Tui Osborne after he decided to leave the program in September. Life won’t be the only team playing with a new head coach, as Clemson’s head coach, Justin Hickey, stepped down at the end of July. This will be a great test for both teams, and the first step for Life as it sets eyes on a fourth consecutive National Championship game.