The game of the week in the Pacific Mountain West Conference features UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. The third-ranked Gauchos are coming off a much needed bye week, and the Anteaters are fresh off the heels of their 34-5 PMWC win over USC.
Irvine’s lopsided victory over the Trojans hasn’t instilled a false sense of confidence, as the Anteaters are aware of the monstrous challenge UCSB presents.
“A lot of backs stuff we need to work on, and our forwards need to spread out a little bit and play a little better defensive sliding,” said Irvine coach Vince McLeod.
“Santa Barbara’s a good attacking team. Kevin has his stuff right, so we’ve got to make sure we take some points from him on that.”
UCSB’s preseason schedule was extremely tough, with DI-A St. Mary’s, Utah and Cal Poly getting the better of the Gauchos. 0-3, UCSB is certainly not panicking, but its fair to say the 2011 DI-AA national runners-up are ready to string a few wins together.
“Certainly not getting victories and not getting some of the scores that we’re looking for is not our deal,” said UCSB coach Kevin Battle.
“We were in this exact same spot last year, as well, so we feel pretty good with where we’re at and the progress we’ve made. We’ve chosen the opponents that we have for a reason, and we’ve used this opportunity to get a lot of young players on the field, and to try different combinations to see what we have going forward, and having this bye week enables us to assemble our best 15 that we believe we have, or our best 22, and that’s what we’re going forward with this weekend.”
Perhaps UCSB’s biggest position battle in the preseason was at scrumhalf, as three vied for the starting role. Former wing Alex Asturius has been given the nod for the Irvine match.
“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a very explosive athlete, so getting him involved in the game is good for us,” said Battle. “He had a pretty good game against Cal Poly. He does have some guys nipping at his heels, so there’s a lot of tough competition there, which is exactly what we want.”
It's difficult to predict how the PMWC will pan out, with Claremont and SDSU back in the mix, but one thing's for sure, if the Anteaters find a way to upset UCSB, they'll have thrown a massive wrench in the works.