Who’s the favorite to win the first ever college 7s national championship in College Station, Texas Saturday? That depends on who you ask, but, chances are, St. Mary’s will come up in the conversation with anyone.
The Gaels have long been considered maybe the best team in the country that won’t win a national championship. Forever, it’s been because they had to get past NorCal neighbor Cal. The Bears won’t be in the way when St. Mary’s takes the field in Texas, because the Gaels, not Cal, won California 7s and an automatic bid.
Las Vegas isn’t producing odds on 7s nationals, but if it were, St. Mary’s would quite possibly be the favorite, with highly touted and decorated players like Bubba Jones, Chad Clark, Nick Wallace and Andrew Cook on the roster. Garrett Brewer and Kinglsey McGowan would be lynchpins on practically every other roster in American, too.
The big expectation to perform isn’t lost on the aforementioned Gaels.
“I don’t see them being humble or not humble, really,” said St. Mary’s 7s technical director John Tyler of his players. “I think they read some of the stuff.”
Part of Tyler’s job leading up to kickoff Friday is to remind his team how upset-happy the game of 7s is.
“I tell them this: It’s real simple, any team can win any game at any time in 7s. All you have to do is have one fast guy, one guy to win the ball and one guy to deliver the ball to them, so all you need is three out of the seven guys to have a good game and you can beat anybody,” said Tyler.
“Even though they’re not even ranked, somebody like Milwaukee (UW-Milwaukee is in the Gaels‘ pool this weekend), they’ve probably got somebody to win the ball and they got a fast guy, and if they can deliver the ball to the fast guy, they can win a game, they can win a couple games, they can beat anybody. That happens at the IRB level as well. It’s harder, obviously at the higher level, but anybody with a fast guy can win.”
The only team to beat St. Mary’s so far is UC Davis, who lost to Central Washington in the CRC qualifier final in Las Vegas in February. Central Washington lost in the CRC in June to Dartmouth and Army. Army lost to Dartmouth in the CRC final, and the Big Green fell to Brown in last year’s Ivy League 7s championship. So, using deductive reasoning, there are a lot of teams capable of beating the Gaels.
But, that won’t stop St. Mary’s from being confident.
“We’ve only been beaten by UC Davis, and I would say UC Davis is a real good team,” said Tyler, “and if we were playing again, I would pick us.”
(Editor's note: John Tyler was originally referred to as the coach of St. Mary's, incorrectly, and Lloyd Evans' name has been removed from the article, as he has been replaced on the roster due to a conflict.)