BOULDER, Colo. – It’s showcase weekend in the West, as both matches out of the conference will be played at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., and each being streamed live. The opening fixture will see Colorado take on Air Force, which will be followed by the ‘Border War’ between Colorado State and Wyoming.
No. 19 Colorado vs. No. 18 Air Force
The Buffaloes and Zoomies are both coming off humbling defeats. Last week, Colorado was not quite up for the task of taking on a physically imposing Utah side, while Air Force lacked punch on both sides of the ball in a 56-13 defeat at the hands of Colorado State.
The Buffs will need to receive continued steady play from its half back pairing. In a case of young and old, freshman Evan Clark has excelled in the number nine jumper in his first year on campus, while senior Jay Brown continues to be a calming presence in this third season as the team’s starting fly half. In the forwards, lock Adam Page and eight man Christian Wiessing have a combination of size and skill that can create matchup issues for most opposing forward packs.
Air Force’s 55-30 victory over Wyoming was a positive way to start its West season. However, the Zoomies failed to build on that performance in a lackluster effort against the Rams. Even though Colorado State was forced to play with 14 players for the majority of the second half following a red card in the 42nd minute, Air Force was outscored a troublesome 36-0.
Inside center Ben Burmester will be vital in providing go-forward ball for the Zoomies – an aspect of their game that has been lacking. Versatile forward Grigor Kerdikoshvili has seen time at both flanker and lock. Wherever Kerdikoshvili lines up, he’ll have to ensure that Page and Wiessing don’t roam freely for the Buffs.
No. 16 Colorado State vs. Wyoming
In the second match of the West doubleheader, Colorado State will seek a second consecutive win at Wyoming’s expense. An uncharacteristically sluggish Rams side allowed rival Colorado to run away with its Oct. 2 contest. The team must have taken a long look at themselves in the mirror following the 20-point loss, because they looked like a different team in the blowout of Air Force last weekend.
Ben Pinkelman, who led the Rams’ charge against the Zoomies with four tries, won’t be available versus the Cowboys. The All-American, who has seen time in the back row and centers for Colorado State, will be at the Olympic Training Center for a Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp. Without Pinkelman, fly half Lance Eberhard will need to find other targets in the back line. One dependable target for Eberhard is explosive full back Liam Wynne.
After outclassing New Mexico in the West’s opening week, Wyoming wasn’t up to the task of hanging with Utah – which could be a recurring theme in the conference this fall. The Cowboys should match up much better against Colorado State.
Wyoming is not the largest side, but that doesn’t mean it lacks physicality, and lock Scott Ericsson-Everton is often supplying the muscle for the Cowboys. In the backs, accurate fly half Connor Rezzonico will do himself and his mates well to continue to give outside center Cody Jerabek plenty of touches. Still fairly new to rugby, Jerabek has been a back line revelation in both defense and attack for Wyoming.
One other individual matchup to keep an eye on will be the number eight position. Michael Lewis will man the back of the scrum for the Cowboys, while Evan Giest will do the same for the Rams. Each player enjoys having a go with ball in hand, so it will save each team a great deal of pressure if the first defender to arrive can bring the respective number eights down.
The double dosage of West rugby will be followed by a Women’s Premier League clash between 2014 WPL Champions Glendale Raptors and Blue Conference rivals Berkeley All Blues. The end-to-end rugby action will begin at 11 a.m. MT when Colorado and Air Force take the pitch, followed by Colorado State versus Wyoming at 1 p.m. MT. All three matches will be streamed live, available online at infinityparkglendale.com.