Michigan, coming off of an impressive 34-5 defeat of Purdue, travels to Indiana Saturday for what could be a stiff litmus test, as the Hoosiers are undefeated on the season with lopsided wins over Purdue and Kentucky and an all-important win over Ohio State to open Big Ten Universities play.
The Hoosiers were anchored in their win over the Buckeyes with a three-try performance from junior flyhalf Lewis Shaw. He accounted for 24 points in total, slotting three conversions and a penalty. That performance is good enough to make Shaw the second-highest point scorer in the conference through just one game. Michigan flyhalf Grady Bridges is right behind him with 21 having played in two conference matches.
For Michigan, beating Purdue was a landmark victory. The Wolverines didn’t split from the local men’s club until 2000, so Michigan doesn’t have a long history of playing collegiate rugby.
“It’s first U of M team to beat Purdue, as far as my records are concerned, so that’s pretty cool,” said Michigan coach Matt Trenary. “I think we could have done even better, but the guys are happy and I think that’s a mental battle, just because the club hasn’t won that many games in the past three, four years, so definitely good for them.”
But, says Trenary, Michigan isn’t judging its season solely on wins and losses. And just as Michigan isn’t content with the 29-point win over the Boilermakers, the team won’t be content with anything less than playing really good rugby against the Hoosiers, win or lose.
“The guys have set their goals before the season, and whatever happens it’s not going to change that. They still just want to play the best rugby they can play,” said Trenary.
“They gave themselves a six out of 10 on this past weekend, so 34-5 win against Purdue is great, that’s always good, and alumni are happy and notice that, but internally as a team, we try and set our own standard and just play the best we can play.
“You want to beat the front runner and whoever the big names are out there, but at the end of the day we try to measure ourselves against ourselves… We have a standard that we want to get to and we’ll kind of know it when we get there. Right now we haven’t got there.”
If the Wolverines are going to pull off a road upset of Indiana, chances are they’ll need to play as close to their ideal standard as possible.