Oklahoma to receive early test in Baylor

D1A Rugby: Oklahoma to receive early test in Baylor

BOULDER, Colo. – Oklahoma may have won Conference Championships in both sevens and XVs last season, but there are a few teams in the Red River Conference that are capable of chasing down the Sooners – and Baylor is one of those teams.

Oklahoma visits Waco Saturday to begin Red River play against the Bears of Baylor. Both teams’ programs sit in a strikingly similar position. Oklahoma and Baylor both brought on new head coaches last season, each determined to turn around programs lacking major success in recent history. The rosters for both Baylor and Oklahoma are made up mostly of underclassmen, but neither lack talent from recent recruiting efforts.

For Baylor, Saturday is a massive opportunity to take the reins in the Red River race, but the Bears know a victory won’t come easy.

“We have had a good week of preparation and are expecting an extremely tough match against Oklahoma,” said Baylor Head Coach Nick Lane. “We have several new players making their debuts tomorrow which will be a great baptism for them into the game. All of our players understand they must bring passion and commitment to stay competitive with OU.”

Baylor may just be catching Oklahoma at the right time. The Sooners are missing several key players due to injury and military commitments, including their most experienced forward in Jayce Crowder.

Fortunately, Oklahoma’s captain, Mike Al-Jiboori, will be starting at his usual outside center position. Al-Jiboori is the most explosive player in Red River and the unquestioned leader of the Sooners.

“This week is especially challenging with the absence of some of our military guys and recovering injuries, but a challenge is no stranger to us. So, we welcome it with a young team and open arms,” said Al-Jiboori. “I intend to lead my team as best I can and hope to be an extra spark through the obstacles that lay ahead.”

Whichever team ends up on the losing end of Saturday’s match will have every opportunity to recover and get into the hunt for the Red River crown. Still, the winner will no doubt be in the driver seat in the southwest.

Staying in the Red River Conference, the University of Texas makes its return to D1A after a year away from the competition, while Texas Christian University embarks on its inaugural season playing in D1A.

Both Texas and TCU arrive in D1A after being two of the top clubs out of the Southwest Conference last season, but it was the Longhorns who were the victors of a 34-22 decision against the Horned Frogs last February.

“My returning players have been looking forward to this game,” explained TCU Head Coach TeShay Flowers. “We lost a hard-fought battle last year that decided who would be playing in our Conference Championship. Everyone is excited to be testing themselves against the elite programs in the country, starting with a historically successful club in the University of Texas.”

Even though Baylor and Oklahoma will both be relying on youth this fall, TCU just might be the youngest squad in the Conference. Meanwhile, Texas has the luxury of proven upperclassmen such as senior lock Tommy Gilmore and captain Taylor Hayes.