LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Two matches are on tap in Texas for the final weekend of play in the Red River Conference. Both games involve a traditionally strong program coming to the end of another successful season. Their April 2 opponents represent two up-and-coming squads that have made significant improvements this season, but would love to end the year with a Red River scalp.
Baylor vs. No. 14 LSU
The Tigers have already clinched the Red River Conference – guaranteeing them a home game in the opening round of the D1A Playoffs. That doesn’t mean LSU doesn’t have anything to play for Saturday. D1A’s 14th-ranked team has an undefeated record to uphold, and impressive form it would like to build on heading into its April 16 Round 1 Playoff game.
LSU is surely taking its final conference match seriously given its opposition – Baylor. The Bears enter their showdown with the Tigers having won three consecutive games by an average of 32 points per contest. After winning just one game last season, the team has seen marked improvement this year, but would love to end the season with a massive upset.
“It would mean everything,” Baylor Head Coach Mason Hering said of a potential upset. “We’re predominately looked at as the underdog in this match, and rightfully so as LSU is playing lights-out. But a win, or even a close result, is going to be a springboard onto bigger and better things for next season.”
The streaking Bears are hoping to knock off a team nobody has been able to beat, but they understand it will be far from an easy task. Baylor’s staff is especially aware of Junior All-American flanker Brennan Falcon and outside center Jeff Mauras, but more fearful of LSU’s strength as a unit.
“Their entire lineup, one through 23, is what makes this team so good,” expressed Hering. “They’re interchangeable, they are fluid, and play 15-man rugby – which is tough to stop.”
For the Bears to have a shot of shocking LSU, it will need steady play from the fly half position – even if they aren’t sure who will be wearing the No. 10 jumper. Talented kicker and distributor Santiago Locamuz has battled injuries throughout the season, and is questionable for this weekend. The second choice at fly half, full back Vincent Parker, is out for the remainder of the season with his own injury. If Locamuz can’t go, inside center Stewart Morris will fill the void. Morris did well in the 65 minutes he saw at first receiver in Baylor’s 47-15 win over TCU.
“All season we’ve dealt with injuries, and the guys have really bought into this ‘next up’ mentality,” said Hering.
Texas A&M vs. TCU
If it weren’t for Baylor’s current winning streak, TCU would be a viable choice for most improved team in the Red River. After going winless in conference play last season, the Horned Frogs earned a convincing win over Texas Tech and settled for a tie against Texas.
An upset of Texas A&M would tie a massive bow on TCU’s season, but the Horned Frogs understand there are obtainable wins Saturday that don’t involve the scoreboard.
“As important as a win would be, I coach to the behavior,” said TCU Head Coach TeShay Flowers. “We must first begin competing like a champion, then the wins will come.
“I want to see us fight for 80 minutes.”
They’ll need to put up an 80-minute fight when they visit College Station, Texas, too. Since February, the Aggies have gone 3-1 with their lone loss being a two-point defeat to LSU – by far the Tigers’ toughest fixture of the season. Most recently, A&M hammered Texas Tech, 57-8.
“You name it they have it,” Flowers said of Texas A&M. “This will be our toughest challenge of the year. A&M is a complete squad. They have phenomenal structure, a great coach, and players that run the system they have been taught.”
Last time out, TCU took one on the chin in its 47-15 defeat at the hands of Baylor. Still, the Horned Frogs are confident that the scoreboard was not indicative of how they played.
“Baylor was the better team, but we had possession and territory advantage throughout the game,” explained Flowers. “We just couldn’t finish.”
With two very talented players in the half back positions making most of the team’s decisions in Dillon Thiele and Bryce Watson, the rest of the Horned Frogs at times get caught watching rather than playing. This week Flowers wants his entire roster to “look for work.”
The April 2 match between Texas A&M and TCU will kick off at noon CT, and will be broadcasted by T5RDG. The live stream can be found on T5RDG’s YouTube page.