Cal and BYU will face off once again the highest level men’s college final after each won their semifinals Saturday evening at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.
BYU had all sorts of trouble with Arkansas State, finally pulling away late 36-15 in a game that was in doubt until the closing minutes. The match itself was a huge physical confrontation, highlighted by the clash of two of the best No. 8s in the college game in BYU’s Ryan Roundy and ASU’s Shaun Potgeiter. Neither player, and neither team, backed down Saturday.
Arkansas State took and early lead thanks to a Patrick Sullivan penalty and a try from fullback Danie Swanepoel. But the Cougars edged back, using the high ball and the kick to space to put Arkansas State on the back foot. Fifteen minutes in Shaun Davies slotted a penalty to make it 8-3, and then, after a long series of bashes against a brick wall of a Red Wolves defense, BYU prop Mikey Su’a crashed over. Davies hit the conversion to give his side a lead they would never relinquish, 10-8.
The teams continued to attack with a lot of commitment, if not accuracy. The wet conditions made for plenty of dropped balls, and those drops seemed to hurt Arkansas State just a little bit more.
BYU did enough to take advantage, punching the ball into the ASU end and getting three penalties for their pains, which Davies kicked.
The scrumhalf got into trouble after that, though. He chased up a high ball and didn’t try hard enough to get out of the way for a jumping Swanepoel. His shoulder clipped the fullback legs and the ASU player flipped over in a dangerous fall. Yellow card for Davies and BYU was a man down.
ASU punished BYU for it. They kicked to the corner and kept up the pressure. After a series of BYU penalties they finally mauled the ball over the line in textbook fashion. Potgieter got the try, and it was 19-15 with 25 minutes to go.
Just as Davies was ready to come back on the field, BYU got another yellow card, this time for wing Zeke Mendenhall blocking a player. Losing a wing was a little easier to cover than your scrumhalf and goalkicker, and the BYU forwards took over.
Davies kicked another penalty, and then a long kick into space gave BYU an excellent attacking opportunity, as the ball was knocked on carelessly, setting up a Cougar scrum in Red Wolves territory.
In a series that must have lasted ten minutes, Arkansas State defended their line with impressive desperation. But they couldn’t force that one turnover to kick the ball clear, and finally prop Ray Forrester was shoved over by his teammates to make it over. 29-15.
ASU kept trying to come back, with Sullivan slithering through half-breaks and Potgeiter and Nardus Wessels doing everything they could. But time forced them to take risks, and when the ball popped out of a ruck in the BYU half it was all over. The ball landed in Roundy’s hands and the No. 8 was gone for the killer blow 36-15.
In the end, BYU limped off the field knowing they were in a rugby football game. Arkansas State took a
back seat to no one. But the Red Wolves will also be ruing the dropped balls and missed opportunities that could have turned a gallant defeat into a famous victory.
Tries: Su’a, Forrester, Roundy
Convs: Davis 3
Pens: Davies 5
Tries: Swanepoel, Potgeiter