With the Round of 16 concluded, this weekend was jammed packed with big-time playoff clashes across the country. Teams took care of business with a few come-from-behind victories made headlines.
In the first game of the weekend, #10 Army travelled to #7 Colorado State and earned itself a spot in the quarterfinals with a 52-15 victory. Though CSU got on the board first, Army dominated much of the first half with some strong forward play to build a 26-10 lead. After the break, it was the Black Knight backs who made the difference, with tries coming from Sam Sutera and Jordan Jurosic.
“I think all games tend to open up a bit more in the second half, and this one seemed to flow that way,” Army head coach Matt Sherman said. “I also felt our finishers came in and made a really positive impact.”
After this impressive showing, Army can look ahead to another tough road showdown next week against #2 Life University. Life hosted Central Washington and advanced in an 87-7 rout. Life controlled possession early and was successful in forcing turnovers. Offensively, Life found momentum thanks to a powerful scrum and stellar maul play, getting tries from 10 different Running Eagles.
In the closest game of the weekend, #4 BYU avoided an upset from #11 Arkansas State, coming back to win 34-23. Both teams traded scores before the Red Wolves got two tries from Tabo Maree to go up 17-5. BYU cut the lead before the half and found its defensive footing in the second half, turning Arkansas State away on some near scoring opportunities. The Cougars came roaring back with less than 20 minutes to go to retake the lead 29-23 before a Michael Payne try sealed the game in the final minutes.
BYU will host Penn State next week after the Nittany Lions bested Arizona 51-34 at State College. In what was shaping up to be a classic defensive battle after 25 minutes, Penn State exploded offensively thanks to a strong scrum. After talking a 37-5 lead early in the second half, the Nittany Lions kept up their offensive pressure although Arizona made it a little closer with a late surge.
“Our forwards in general were very good, eating up meters and finding holes in the defensive line to set up scoring opportunities,” Penn State head coach Justin Hundley said.
#1 St. Mary’s matched up with conference rival Cal Poly, and secured a 58-22 win. Though Cal Poly’s defense provided problems for the Gaels, St. Mary’s remained in control thanks to an impressive scrum and some smooth back play in the second half. The Gaels are getting healthy and clicking at the right time, though in the quarterfinal next week they will run into a formidable foe in Lindenwood.
Lindenwood defeated Texas A&M 83-12 in Austin. Scrumhalf Nick Feakes shined for the Lions with two early tries while Lindenwood’s forward pack controlled the pace of the match and deprived the Aggies of scoring opportunities.
#3 Cal also won big in their playoff showdown against #14 GCU, 85-14. Cal’s high-powered offense showed up in a major way, netting 13 tries on the day. Next up for Cal in the quarterfinals is a matchup with Navy. The Midshipmen advanced after shutting out Indiana 47-0. Navy set the tone early, but struggled to turn possession into points until the second half when their forwards began to click.