LAFAYETTE, Colo. – A win for Baylor Saturday, Feb. 25, when it hosts Texas Tech would clinch a North Division title for the Bears and reserve them a spot in the April 1 Red River Championship game. The other fixture in the conference will see Texas travel to Houston to play the Cougars.
Baylor vs. Texas Tech
Two years ago the Bears won just one Red River match. Now Baylor is 80 minutes from finishing the conference’s regular season with a 7-1 record and a place in the Red River Final.
The Bears’ first of their six wins came against the Red Raiders back in October. Baylor was forced to come back from deficits in the first and second half to eventually upend Texas Tech, 29-26, on a late penalty kick by fly half Parker Vincent.
Although the Red Raiders played well enough to earn a win in their meeting during the fall, they are aware that the two sides have taken different paths since the hotly-contested bout that took place over four months ago. Texas Tech has only picked up one win in that span, while Baylor has gone a remarkable 5-1.
“What happened in the fall is negligible now because we’ve gone in different directions sine that tight match. Baylor has all the momentum and we have stumbled badly,” said Texas Tech Head Coach Philip Terrigno. “I imagine the Bears are beyond confident at the moment judging by what the team has accomplished. If we play soft and don’t hold our shape they will roll us, and use us as another résumé builder to make a case to crack the national D1A Top 20.”
The results between the two schools have not only been polar opposites, but their emotional states couldn’t be more different, either. While Baylor’s season has been reason for jubilation, the Red Raiders were struck with unthinkably tragic news when their captain, brother and friend Quinn Noel passed away earlier this month.
Slowly but surely, the team is healing. It hasn’t been easy for Texas Tech to carry on without its fearless leader, but it has tried its best to play and train with the relentless passion Noel was known for.
“They seem to be getting increasingly focused as time passes,” Terrigno says of his players. “The week of practice leading up to the Arkansas match, which was the first since Quinn’s passing, was very surreal for all of us because we couldn’t believe he was gone. We were helped out morale-wise by moving one of our officers and most respected players, Sadiq Sule, into the starting flanker jersey from his starting center role.”
A win over Texas Tech clinches the North Division for Baylor, as will a tie that sees the Bears score a four-try bonus point. However, a loss or tie without scoring the bonus point leaves the door open for Oklahoma to put its stamp on the division title. The Sooners currently sit three points behind Baylor and finish their season on the road against Texas March 4.
Houston vs. Texas
Houston wanted to challenge itself as a program by moving up from D1AA to D1A Rugby’s Red River Conference, and the step up in competition has proved to be just that – challenging.
“The University of Houston asked for D1A competition and the Red River Conference has succeeded in providing us with exactly what we wanted: a professional, highly competitive and safe environment in which to measure the level of rugby that Houston needs to achieve.”
In fact, ‘challenging’ might be an understatement. The Cougars are winless in their five Red River matches and have surrendered an average of 88 points per contest. One of those five defeats was delivered by the Longhorns in November. Despite the hefty loss ii took in Austin three months ago, Houston – led by captain and loose head prop Mark Williams – remains optimistic heading towards the tail end of its first Red River season.
“We are not underestimating them; however, we are hoping that our continued philosophy and this semester’s consistency will lead us to a home victory for the University of Houston Rugby Club.”