BOULDER, Colo. – With four teams in position to play in the Big Ten Universities Championship match last weekend, two teams had to win competitive matches in the final week of conference play in order to play for the title. and advances to play Indiana, a dominant team that came back in the final 10 minutes to beat Wisconsin. Both teams have points to prove, and it will make for a great Big Ten Championship match.
Ohio State will make its return to the Big Ten Championship match for the second year in a row. Last year, the Buckeyes struggled against Wisconsin, playing behind for most of the match, and weren’t able to build any kind of momentum, ending the season with a 34-20 loss.
The Buckeyes started this season hungry for another shot at the championship. They started conference play with four straight dominant wins and beat their first four opponents by an average of 59 points. In their match against Wisconsin, the Buckeye defense was able to hold the Crass brothers to zero points, . The team’s improvement this season comes from many areas, including a great B-side that went undefeated in 2014. The addition of Ronan Forrestal has also been a huge help to the Buckeyes. The Notre Dame College transfer has scored a try in all but one match this season, proving to be another scoring threat to Ohio State’s back line.
The Buckeye that has turned many heads this season is junior wing Jojo Eramo. The speedy Eramo has 15 tries on the season, and has played great defense in every match. He was a key player in the Wisconsin match, helping hold the Badgers’ backs away from the try line, and also scored the last-minute try against Michigan, which gave his side the win.
“Jojo Eramo is an exciting player, no doubt, but at least four kids touch every ball before him, sometimes six,” said Ohio State Director of Rugby Tom Rooney. “That means people do their job and Jojo gets opportunities in space. That’s why we have been successful this season. All the teammates do their jobs. The whole team knows we’ve done our job when we put our skilled players in position to succeed. We know what those positions are, then we succeed.”
The whole Buckeye side will need to be prepared for what will be their toughest opponent of the season, the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana has been playing lights-out all season long, and has taken out every side in its path. Its conference schedule consisted of multiple blowouts, including a 123-point performance against Iowa. The Hoosiers also picked up a win against Mid-South’s Davenport, a match that proved they are one of the best college rugby teams in the nation.
Indiana has found ways to win in its close matches this season. In the two games that Indiana found themselves down at halftime, they were able to rally and pick up the win. One of those close matches was against Wisconsin, who was able to hold Indiana to only 10 points in the first 70 minutes. The Hoosiers were able to score two tries in the last 10 minutes of the match to beat the Badgers. Wisconsin and Ohio State are very evenly-matched sides, as shown in their tie earlier in the year. The Buckeyes will need to emulate what Wisconsin did in that match, while also adding a little bit more defense.
Ohio State’s focus will be heavily centered on Indiana’s three-headed attack of Bryce Campbell, Jake Hidalgo, and Teddy Terezis. These three have combined for a total of 180 points in conference play, which is more points than five other Big Ten teams have scored on the season.
“We really need the whole team to play well,” said Indiana Assistant Coach Dan Fitterling. “It sounds very cliché, and I understand that, but we don’t set up the team to have stars, what we do in one area is to set up the other. If one area is not doing well, then the other area will struggle. We need to be at the top of our game this weekend.”
Ohio State will be trying to get the trophy after being disappointed last year, and Indiana is trying to redeem itself for the forfeited title two years ago. Both sides have big chips on their shoulders, but it will come down to who plays the best rugby for a full 80 minutes.
While this will be the match of the day, the whole Big Ten Conference will be participating in the Championship weekend in Rockford, Ill. The matches are based off of the final Big Ten standings, except for the first match of the day, which pits Minnesota against Michigan’s B-side. Minnesota would have been playing Purdue, but agreed to let Iowa play the Boilermakers since those two had not met during the season.
The following matches are scheduled for the Big Ten Championship event Nov. 14 in Rockford, Ill. (all times ET):
- Minnesota vs. Michigan B -11:30 a.m.
- B-side Championship: Wisconsin B vs. Indiana B – 12:30 pm..
- Purdue vs. Iowa – 1:15 p.m.
- Third-Place match: Michigan vs. Wisconsin – 2:30 p.m.
- Illinois vs. Michigan State – 3:00 pm.
- Championship match: Ohio State vs. Indiana – 4:30 p.m.
The Championship match between Indiana and Ohio State, as well as the third-place match pitting Michigan against Wisconsin, will be broadcasted live on USA Rugby TV.