By Alex Goff
April 17, 2004 – There were surprises in the men's college playoffs, and perhaps some harbingers of more to come.
Air Force looked very swift in their demolition of Tennessee (see here) and Ohio State were at their brutal best against Penn State 51-19.
In the clash of the day, GoffonRugby #2 Cal Poly outmatched #3 Brigham Young University 46-29. Cal Poly benefited from huge performances from flanker Tony Petrozella and center Chris Williams. Petrozella has a nose for the ball and stole plenty in the tackle and ruck situations, and his tackling was awesome. In the altitude of Colorado Springs, many though BYU, which lives at about 4,500 feet above sea level, would have the advantage, but Cal Poly appeared the fitter team at the end.
What was clear was that BYU missed their Eagle center Salesi Sika. While BYU is not a one-player outfit by any stretch of the imagination, Sika is a dangerous player and his injury to his knee (we here MCL or ACL, but that is unconfirmed) was felt on the field.
Still, BYU goes home having proven they can perform at the national level (everyone knew they could) but also learning that you never know what can happen on the day.
North Carolina was a big surprise in beating Purdue 16-15 (see here), while Navy had to really battle it out with UC Davis in a clash straight-ahead teams.
But the harbingers of changes to come? How about two annual powers who looked vulnerable? Army had significant trouble with UC Santa Barabra but won out 28-21. Meanwhile, Cal was trailing Bowling Green at the half 15-13. Cal coach Jack Clark has led the way in playing two mostly different teams on the two days of playoffs, but his depth isn't what it has been.
So in the second half on came All Americans Mike MacDonald, Tony Vontz, Joel DiGiorgio, and Kyle Khasigian. Vontz and DiGiorgio scored and all four made a big impact as Cal won 40-15.
But it wasn't easy and Cal must know that North Carolina is feeling pretty chuffed.
"Well I think we kind of limped into the round of eight," Clark said. "Thankfully we had a handful of guys who put in strong performances, because that match could have gotten away from us. They were big heavy lads in the forwards and we did not have the skill to make them move around the field. Maybe its understandable, this was the first taste of post season rugby for 13 of today's starting team and the intensity seemed to unsettle us. North Carolina has some good players, we will need to improve on today to advance."
In Division II, Salisbury was true to form over Georgia Southern 39-7 on a day that saw MARFU teams of both genders go 7-1. The Coast Guard Academy showed that their three-point loss to DI Norwich wasn't a fluke, and they dropped Humboldt State 31-22/ Claremont Colleges looked just what they are - an experienced and motivated team with lots of talent: 52-7 over Pittsburgh. Ditto Arkansas State, which pulled out all the stops and ran rings around Northern Colorado 50-15.
Men's Division I
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