Lone undefeated Red River sides clash when Oklahoma visits LSU

D1A Rugby: Lone undefeated Red River sides clash when Oklahoma visits LSU
Photo Credit: Tom Dunning (left) Norma Salinas (right)

BOULDER, Colo. – Two undefeated teams remain in the Red River, but after Feb. 20 there will be just one. Oklahoma, the team that sits atop of the conference standings at 4-0, and No. 17 LSU, the only Red River side in Canterbury D1A Top 20, will meet in Baton Rouge, La. Saturday in a match that could very well decide who wins the conference.

Getting a head start on the season by playing two conference games in the fall, the Sooners have raced out to four Red River Wins, while most teams in the league have only played two total matches. After winning its first two games by a combined 66 points, Oklahoma had to come from behind to beat Texas A&M and played Baylor to a tie before a late score kept the team undefeated.

An 85-5 shellacking handed out to Oklahoma State last week in a nonconference rivalry game should have the Sooners feeling confident. Still, LSU will present Oklahoma with its biggest test of the season.

“We are expecting them to match up with us, and play a similar style,” said Oklahoma Head Coach Doug Neubauer. “We believe it will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”

Just because Saturday’s fixture has the makings of a conference-deciding contest, doesn’t mean the Sooners are preparing any differently.

“We are aware of the importance of this match and quality of LSU,” Neubauer added. “We are just asking the team to be a little more focused and trust each other.”

According to LSU’s Kevin Kovacic, training sessions haven’t changed a whole lot this week in the Tiger’s camp, but it’s evident that the level of concentration has been heightened.

“We try to treat every week of training the same no matter who the opponent is, and we have had success doing that so far this year,” said the senior tight head prop. “There has definitely been an elevated level of focus from all the players, but our weekly game plan remains the same.”

Unlike Oklahoma, the Tigers have yet to be tested for 80 minutes in conference play. Last week, Texas gave LSU all it could handle over 40 minutes, as the Longhorns only trailed by five points at halftime, but the Tigers eventually ran away from Texas, 34-0.

“There were many times early in the game against Texas where we were overexcited, and it led to missed opportunities,” explained Kovacic. “If we had shown a little patience, the score in the first half would have been very different.”

Star flanker Brennan Flacon’s presence tomorrow should help ease the team’s anxiousness on attack, and allow the Tigers to slow the game down. Falcon wasn’t in the lineup last week, but instead suited up for the Junior All-Americans in the team’s Feb. 13 defeat of Canada.

“Even though he is only a sophomore, he is a great leader for our team and really elevates the play of everyone else on the field,” complimented Kovacic.

The matchup that could ultimately decide who wins the 2016 Red River Conference Championship will be broadcasted by Gift-Time Rugby Network, and will air live on Gift-Time’s website. The broadcast will begin at 12:30 p.m. CT, and kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT.