This is the game.
St. Mary’s, for all their struggles to keep people healthy and on the field, can clinch the D1-A Pacific conference with a victory in Moraga this weekend against Central Washington.
In the woefully tiny Pacific season, where each team plays only four league games, going 2-0 means you’ve swept half the season. That’s what St. Mary’s has done with lopsided victories over UCLA and Cal Poly. If they win with a bonus point against CWU, they will likely secure 1st even before they take on UC Davis (it’s possible then CWU, St. Mary’s and UCLA or Cal Poly could all end up 3-1, in which case St. Mary’s would win the head-to-head tiebreaker).
For St. Mary’s, they will have thought long and hard about this past weekend’s 53-17 loss to BYU. Head Coach Tim O’Brien felt the game was more competitive than the score shows, and in fact the BYU coach David Smyth felt the same way.
Three key turnovers led to long-range tries for BYU – not that such tries count for fewer points, but the message from the Gaels is that they were capable of constructing some offense against the Cougars, and just lost the focus at singular, key moments.
They will have to be focused against CWU, which remembers keenly their last-second loss to St. Mary’s a year ago in Ellensburg. This time around, the Central Washington team is perhaps even more dangerous than before on long range. If St. Mary’s gives up the rock in the Central 22, they could be scrambling in desperation trying to stop Tim Stanfill from scoring a try.
So it’s Central Washington who might be looking for the counter-attack, while St. Mary’s will bring the power up front. Captain and hooker Andrew Cook is having an excellent season, and he is the central figure in a tight five that is really enjoying its work.
This promises to be a thrilling matchup, and hardly any less thrilling for the fact that neither team is in the mood to give up a lot of points.
Our pick? We go with St. Mary’s. The Gaels are playing at home, and have just a few more weapons out wide. Up front Central is much improved, but St. Mary’s is a little more seasoned.