The Week Ahead: DI-AA

Article written by Pat Clifton and published on Friday, 14 October 2011.  Check out the The Week Ahead: DI-AA article on RUGBYMag.com or read below.

It’s a relatively quiet week in DI-AA. There are a few intriguing friendlies, but not many league games with playoff implications. The most important league game is in the Empire East, where Stony Brook travels to Iona to avenge a heartbreaking loss from earlier in the season.

With no time left on the clock and the scored tied at 17-17, Stony Brook was rapping on the door near Iona’s try line. The pressure resulted in an Iona penalty five meters out. Had the Seawolves kicked for goal and converted, they’d have won the game, be sitting at 4-0 and be ranked. However, an overzealous Seawolf quick-tapped the penalty and lost the ball in contact. Iona marched 95 meters the opposite direction to win 24-17.

With the memory of that play firmly stuck in Stony Brook’s collective mind, ball retention has been drilled on relentlessly in training this week.

“Absolutely,” said Stony Brook coach Jerry Mirro. “Recycling, being real fast around the field, recycling, et cetera.”

Saturday’s winner takes sole possession of first place, which will be good for a more favorable pairing when the top two teams from each Empire division crossover in league playoffs.

In the Empire West, Binghamton and Brockport fight for second place as the second round of league games begins. Binghamton won the first meeting 43-20 on the road, but Brockport has won back-to-back games over Buffalo and Syracuse, who play each other Saturday for fourth place or a piece of third. The winner holds on to a chance at the playoffs, while the loser’s postseason hopes become unrealistic.

The East Coast appears to be all wrapped up. With Northeastern at 4-0 with just two games ahead of them, one of which is against last-place UConn Saturday, everyone else is just playing for second. There are two at-large bids to the sweet 16 to be given out in DI-AA, but it’s not likely the ECRC runner up will be receiving one.

In the Mideast, where the runner up most likely will receive a bid to nationals, Indiana completes its three-game gauntlet of facing a top-10 team in consecutive weeks when it hosts undefeated defending national champion Davenport Saturday.

The final score could tell us just how good Davenport is compared to the rest of the league, as Indiana is their toughest Mideast opponent yet. But it’s tough to tell what mindset the Mudsharks will be entering the game with. Will they be out to prove something, or will they fold with their postseason aspirations dashed?

We’re halfway through October and the Heart of America Conference will see just its second game played Saturday. If Truman State beats Kansas in Lawrence, they’ll improve to 2-0. The league favorite, Kansas State, has twice had their season opener against Oklahoma State postponed by the Cowboys.

The intriguing friendlies? The biggest one is Tennessee at home against Virginia Tech. The Vols dropped an early game to Maryland a couple of weeks back, and it’s likely they’ll be looking to prove that was a fluke with a big score against the Hokies. Conversely, a win over Tennessee would be a boost of confidence for Virginia Tech and a shot of credibility for the ACRL.

That credibility could be diluted, however, if Maryland drops its second-straight game against a ranked DII opponent. The Terps face Towson Saturday. North Carolina also plays a ranked DII team in UNC-Wilmington.

Another big friendly pits LSU against Texas State. TSU is the favorite to win the Souwthest Rugby Conference this season, and LSU is among the favorites to win the SEC, if not the national title. This shoudl give us an idea of how to compare the two conferences. Texas State was bounced in the round of 16 last year by Kansas State.

MIDEAST/MIDWEST
Davenport @ Indiana
Purdue @ Miami
Minnesota @ UNI
Bowling Green @ Ohio State
Nebraska @ Stout

ECRC
UMass @ Boston
Northeastern @ UConn
SCSU @ Albany

EMPIRE WEST
Syracuse @ Buffalo
Brockport @ Binghamton

EMPIRE EASTFordham @ Kings Point (FRI)
Stony Brook @ Iona

HOA
Truman State @ Kansas

EPRU
West Chester vs. Shippensburg
Delaware vs. Millersville

Friendlies
Wyoming vs. Colorado
Kutztown @ Temple
VTech @ Tennessee
UNC vs. UNC Wilmington
Maryland vs. Towson
LSU vs. Texas State