The Aggies traveled to Houston on Saturday to take on Southwestern Conference member Rice University in an early season matchup.
After just a week of practice, the Aggie staff was uncertain about how well A&M was going to play after summer break.
“You never feel like you have enough to prepare for a match at any time during the season, “ said head coach Brett Mills, “but with a week to train and get ready our anxiety was pretty high. Our expectations were simple, we hoped to run our pattern with some structure and play hard defense.”
The Aggies were able to accomplish both in a 70-6 season opening win. Texas A&M played its starters in the first half and built a 35-6 lead. Mills brought on a new group for the second half who added 35 more points to the total.
“I was really pleased with the way both groups played,” stated Mills, “Our first group did exactly what I hoped they would. I was most excited about the intensity of our defense. Even though we made some structural errors, our tackling was extremely hard, which resulted in a number of Rice mistakes.”
The Aggies were able to take advantage of the mistakes resulting from their defensive pressure and point up big points on the day. Center Jan Young and prop Dickson Garnett both had two tries apiece in the first half. Wing Brian Guillen added a try and flyhalf Conor Mills was 5-5 on conversions.
Sophomore center Grayson Dowlearn led the way in the second half with two tries. Prop Garrett Dishman, frosh flanker Danny Amsler, and center Andrew McMath all added solo tries during the second stanza. Scrumhalf Rob Larsen matched Mills’ effort in the first half going 5-5 on conversions.
“I could not have been more pleased with the way this group played,” commented Mills, “If we are going to win in the ARC and against other D1-A competition, we must have depth. We found out on Saturday that we have a lot of guys who are going to be battling for playing time, which makes us better.”
Team captain Conor Mills added, “We are very pleased with the results today. It is obvious, based on turnovers and defensive mistakes, that we have a lot of work to do, but I think we are way ahead of where we were last year.”
The coaching staff was overall pleased with the result against a strong Rice team.
“I think Rice is a very good team and Mario is an exceptional coach,” said coach Mills, “They were a playoff team last year and will be again this year. The Owls are fundamentally sound and hard physically. Rice gave us an excellent challenge and the final score is no way indicative of the quality of this opponent.”
The Aggies now prepare for sevens rugby with a friendly scrimmage against ARC opponent Sam Houston State next Saturday. “We are very excited about the upcoming sevens season, and we hope to have a very successful season. Our goal is to return to the national championships and the road begins next Saturday, “ stated captain Mills.