BYU has put extra pressure on themselves.
The school is, after all, hosting the Varsity Cup National Championships at their own South Field in a week. So they better win, otherwise they will be watching the final at their own venue.
“We have talked about the fact that we do not want to host the game and be spectators,” said center threequarter Hoseki Kofe. “That wouldn't be good. We know we don’t want to be in that position.”
First they have to get through a tough, impressive Central Washington team, one that torched Air Force for 81 points (81-28 final score). Director of Rugby Bob Ford praised his team’s group approach, and their work at the breakdown. But most important was how they moved the ball. Their unselfishness, as much as anything else, made for the big score.
“You look at Tanner Barnes,” said Ford. “He played really well, made tons of breaks, but look at how he distributed the ball. He didn’t just try to do it all, he set up his teammates.”
“We caught the last few minutes of their game against Air Force and they are really physical, and overall a really good team,” said BYU flanker Kyle Sumsion. “In the backs hey play almost like 7s and they have tons of speed, so they are dangerous.”
BYU is dangerous, too, despite having undergone some big changes this year. They graduated 2012 DI-A Final MVP Mikey Su’a, as well as Eagle scrumhalf Shaun Davies and his five-year halfback partner, Dylan Lubbe – all three central to the team’s success over the past few years.
Sure others remain, but they still had some adjustments to make.
“We've had some changes in the team, especially at halfback, but think think Luke Mocke has done really well to replace Shaun Davies, which was a difficult thing to do. He’s done a great job.”
Kofe echoed those sentiments, mentioning also how flyhalf Jonathan Linehan, a New Zealand, has slotted in at the #10 position.
“Working with both of them has been good,” said Kofe, who has asked to have more of a leadership role this year. “I am a pretty quiet guy. I don't say a lot, but with Shaun and Dylan gone and Paul not always around, the coaches said they wanted me to be more of a vocal leader. I feel really good now, and I am starting to be more vocal. The guys have been great and they listen.”
Taking the main leadership role is Ryan Roundy, who captained the squad last year and again this season. The No. 8 is a presence on the field, and on the team.
“Playing with Ryan and Dan Hubert on the back row has been great,” said Sumsion. “We feel we’re a good unit.”
A good unit is what they need. With Pat Blair and Sean Wanigasekara anchoring a smart and mobile pack, Centra Washington has nothing to lose. Feeling cast aside by DI-A, the Wildcats have taken their Varsity Cup chance with both hands. Shelby Williams, Aladdin Schirmer, and the excellent goalkicking of Alex Reher could all cause BYU problems.
The BYU vs. CWU semifinal match will be broadcast on the Varsity Cup’s YouTube Channel and through Deseret Media’s KSL.com and DesNews.com streaming platforms giving local, but also national and international fans the chance to see the Cougars and Wildcats’ Varsity Cup clash.