Wisconsin hosted and won the inaugural Big Ten 7s Tournament Saturday in Cottage Grove, Wisc. The Badgers lost just one game on the day, falling 12-7 to Purdue in pool play. The hosts downed the only College Premier Division team in the tournament, Penn State, 21-14 in the final.
Penn State was upset 22-7 in their first game of the day by Nebraska, and after the Badgers handled the Huskers with relative ease, Wisconsin coach Skip Heffernan knew his team could stack up against their CPD opponent.
“Penn State got surprised right out of the box by Nebraska, so we really expected Nebraska to be tough and we managed to put up a pretty good score on them, so that really gave me some confidence that we could play with Penn State in the finals, and that was a great game -- very close. It could have been anybody’s game. We were happy when the whistle blew.”
PSU coach Don Ferrell didn’t seem to be as surprised by the loss to Nebraska as the rest of the tournament field.
“You know how 7s is sometimes -- that first match is a tough one,” he said. “We were kind of out of sorts, and I think we were still sleeping almost, it seemed like to me, and Nebraska played a good game, played some good defense and had a big strong team and we just couldn’t get it right in the first game.”
Penn State rebounded from the early loss to blow out Minnesota and Michigan State in their two remaining pool play games.
“I thought they improved each match throughout the day,” said Ferrell of his players. “I thought towards the end of the day they were playing pretty good sevens, and they came up against a strong Wisconsin team in Wisconsin.”
Leading the way for the Badgers were Andrew Hanske and tournament MVP (named by the referees) Ben Knight.
As champions of the Big Ten, Wisconsin has seemingly secured the first-ever automatic bid the to inaugural USA Rugby 7s Collegiate National Championship (still unofficially announced), rumored to be Dec. 16-18 in Miami, Fla.
Wisconsin won the trophy in Cottage Grove, but Iowa stole the show. The Hawkeyes, moving up to DI this fall from the doldrums of DII, finished third, beating Nebraska, Purdue and Ohio State. Iowa led Penn State at full time of the cup semifinal, but PSU scored on the last play of the game to eke out a 19-14 win.
“They were definitely the surprise of the tournament, and they were legit. They had some good athletes, and they played smart,” said Heffernan of Iowa.
“Penn State was really fortunate to beat them. They had to score on the last play of the game. Iowa got ahead of them with less than a minute in the game, and Penn State scored in the very last possession.
“It seems like that program’s on an upturn. They’ve moved up to DI this year, so I think they’ll compete very well.”
“I think that everybody is taking 7s serious, and are learning the game of 7s and working hard,” added Ferrell. “I think you’re going to see, like you see in international 7s, maybe some of the teams who may not be as strong in 15s can be strong in 7s. We weren’t expecting any easy matches, and pretty much that’s what we got.”
Ohio State 40-12 Michigan State
Minnesota 29-26 Ohio State
Purdue 24-19 Michigan State
Minnesota 26-15 Purdue
3rd Place Game
Iowa 29-7 Nebraska
PSU 19-14 Iowa
Wisconsin 28-0 Nebraska
Wisconsin 21-14 Penn State
Iowa 34-7 Ohio State
Ohio State 14-14 Purdue
Wisconsin 28-14 Iowa
Purdue 12-7 Wisconsin
Wisconsin 33-7 Ohio State
Iowa 22-17 Purdue
Nebraska 22-7 Penn State
Minnesota 27-7 Nebraska
Penn State 34-10 Michigan State
Michigan State 22-17 Minnesota
Penn State 38-7 Minnesota
Nebraska 17-10 Michigan State