Perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the DI Sweet 16 is an all Midwest affair, between Midwest West champ Minnesota and Midwest East runner-up Davenport. Judging by their only common opponents, top-ranked Bowling Green and Wisconsin, the game should live up to the billing.
Minnesota fell 33-26 to the Falcons, the only team to beat Davenport all year, last month in the Midwest Championship match, and Davenport lost 30-15 to BGSU in the Midwest East playoffs in November. Davenport walloped Wisconsin 29-0, the only team to beat Minnesota in conference play, on April 16.
The Panthers and Gophers are both hot, riding good springs, and both feature balanced attacks, but really like their backlines. Minnesota’s offensive attack begins with sophomore scrumhalf Nate Augspurger, while Davenport is led by freshman flyhalf J.P. Eloff. Whoever wins this match is expected to win the Blaine, Minn. region.
The other match, though, could be just as entertaining. Kansas State dominated the West-Central conference, winning by an average of 39 points per game. That average was boosted significantly this spring, when the core of the team was complimented by the infusion of some Australian transfer students who found their way to practice.
Texas State lost just one conference game in the Lone Star State to Texas, which they later avenged, but played in a tougher league, top to bottom, than the Wildcats. However, this year’s Texas league was not the same as last year’s, with LSU and Texas A&M competing in the College Premier Division. Kansas State, on the other hand, was the defending West-Central champ.
This is a classic example of backs vs. forwards. Kansas State has some strong forwards, but their real strength is in the backline. Joe D’Agostino is the engine that makes the car go at flyhalf, the Aussie power lies in the midfield, and wing Kenny Scott may be one of the best in DI. He sometimes is lined up at fullback and has all the speed to capitalize on the work done by his teammates.
No matter what happens in this first game, both Texas State and Kansas State have to consider their seasons successes. It’s been 1981 since Kansas State made the Sweet 16, and there’s no evidence that Texas State has ever reached Nationals. Both have nothing to lose, which could prove to be dangerous in the second round.