With less than two weeks until the end of the season, it’s crunch time for D1A playoff hopefuls. This weekend saw teams making major moves to lock up playoff spots and improve their position in the rankings.
#2 Life University has been crowned Mid-South champions after completing a sweep of #5 Lindenwood with a 31-12 victory. Life jumped out to a 19-0 lead thanks to some strong back play off set pieces. Lindenwood cut the lead to 7, however, as Lions’ No. 8 Wes White showed off his strength and speed with a few tries of his own. From there, Life’s offense found a few key line breaks to score another victory in the Mid-South rivalry and wrap up a home playoff spot.
The upset of the week came out of Ohio where the #13 Notre Dame College Falcons surprised #7 Indiana, winning 35-15. The Falcons showed little signs of rust after three months away from D1A action, putting up big points early and taking advantage of Indiana mistakes. After taking a commanding 28-0 lead at the half, the Falcons’ defense shined in the final 30 minutes, dashing any hopes of a Hoosier comeback.
“We really focused on defensive pressure and ball retention,” NDC head coach Jason Fox said. “I think it was our defensive pressure and tackling, and sticking to our system in attack that led to these opportunities.”
Another big winner this weekend was #10 Army, who defeated #6 Navy 18-15 in a brutally physical grudge match that came down to the last play. After a Ryan Moshak try off a maul gave Army the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining, the Black Knight offense looked to slow the game down. A turnover in stoppage time put the Black Knights on their heels, but Army’s defense held up a Midshipman burst at the goal line on the final play to secure the win and the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for Army.
In Red River, the conference championship has been set after Texas A&M held on against Texas 19-5 to win Red River South. With conference play concluded, the Aggies will look ahead to their showdown against Baylor on April 7th for bragging rights in Red River and a D1A playoff spot. Baylor looked strong this weekend in a tune-up against Texas Tech, winning 67-26.
Toward the bottom of the D1A bracket, Cal Poly and #14 San Diego State are both making pushes for playoff bids. Though they didn’t get the result they wanted, Cal Poly played #9 Arizona tight, falling 35-30. Though Cal Poly held leads for much of the first half, Arizona closed out its season on a high note, coming back and defending their lead in the second half. Cal Poly has a quick turnaround against another top 20 team in GCU on Monday.
San Diego State fell well short against BYU, losing 72-10. BYU’s locks pushed in tries early as James Mocke scored the Cougars’ first two tries before assisting Johnny Lane on a third.
Elsewhere in the east Saint Bonaventure knocked off Buffalo Rugby Club 45-21.
You can buy your tickets to the D1A National Championship Series here:
National Championship, May 5th, Santa Clara
Semi-Final, April 28th, Life University
Semi-Final, April 28th, Saint Mary’s College