Four Top 20 teams set to face off in the West

D1A Rugby: Four Top 20 teams set to face off in the West

BOULDER, Colo. – No. 6 Utah will get back into West action this weekend when it takes a trip over the Rockies to visit No. 17 Colorado. This will be the first meeting between the schools, and it’s sure to be a great match. Also along the Front Range, No. 12 Air Force will head north to Fort Collins, Colo., to play No. 19 Colorado State. With all four D1A Top 20 teams out of the West in play, it has the looks to be a highly competitive weekend in the Rockies.

No. 6 Utah vs. No. 17 Colorado
Utah entered the West with a 65-12 win over Wyoming. The Utes are very well rounded, and the trouncing of Wyoming showed they are ready for whatever the West has to offer. This week, it will be Colorado, whose strong pack and quick wings have pushed the team to 2-0.

The Buffaloes upset Colorado State in their first game of the season, and completely ran over New Mexico, 88-10.

“New Mexico never quit,” said Colorado Head Coach Luke Gross. “They have a lot of dedicated young men with moments of greatness. We learned we need to stick to a pattern, and to pay attention with our defensive schemes. It’s something we worked on all week in practice, and it’s something that will really help against a very good Utah team.”

The addition of Utah to the West comes with a great opportunity for teams like Colorado to play against a premier team. Utah was able to beat Saint Mary’s last season, handing the defending champions a surprising loss. With firepower like that in the conference, plus the addition of some great coaching at both Air Force and Colorado, the West will soon become competitive on a national level, and will become stronger so the conference’s teams can make it deeper into the Playoffs.

That all starts this weekend for Colorado. The Buffs have a good pack with Aaron Beckman, Gavin Moscone, and Blake Rodgers, and Gross is looking for lock Adam Page and fly half Jay Brown to provide leadership across the squad. They will match up well against the hulking pack of Utah, and will need all of their strength to bring down Utah’s big center, Scott Strong, and No. 8 Kaleb Hogan, both of whom have great size and the ability to run over defenders.

No. 12 Air Force vs. No. 19 Colorado State
These two teams finished their 2014 seasons in the Top 20; Colorado State at No. 9, and Air Force at No. 10. Their only season losses were to each other, and they both got knocked out of the playoffs by Mid-South power Lindenwood. They have many similarities, but one difference stands out the most: Colorado State returns its one-two punch that is Ben Pinkelman and Evan Geist, while the Zoomies lose two great players in Victor Woo and Calvin Johnson to graduation.

The two Air Force backs will be missed, but the addition of new head coach Denny Merideth and former Eagles Paul Emerick and James Paterson, who were brought in to the coaching staff over the offseason, has already shown that the Falcons can be coached into top form quickly.

“As a very young team, we are seeing a steep learning curve in our players from week to week, and are amazed at those stepping into the fray to perform,” said Merideth. “Ben Burmester is consistently demonstrating outstanding skills, and Grigor Kerdikashvili increases his impact on the game every single week, and we expect that to continue.”

Colorado State will be reeling after its loss to Colorado. The Rams had bad communication throughout the game, while letting the Buffalo pack charge straight over them. They will need to rebound in a strong way to prove they are still a top team in the West.

As for talented forward Pinkelman and No. 8 Geist, Air Force will be looking forward to the challenge.

“It is always good to see young talent on the pitch,” said Merideth. “Good competition is the key to improving one’s own capabilities as an individual and a team.”