Oklahoma Rugby Team Heads To Ohio State For Football Mirror Clash

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If it's happened before, no one remembers it: Oklahoma will play Ohio State in rugby this coming weekend.

Those two schools also play in football on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, making this a special Sooners-Buckeyes oval ball celebration. It's not uncommon for these two teams to play each other in football -- the Ohio State beat Oklahoma 45-24 a year ago. But in rugby, it's a different story.

"You'd think we'd have played each other in the playoffs at some point," Ohio State head coach Tom Rooney said. "But I guess we never crossed paths."

The Buckeyes are coming off a pretty impressive 27-0 shutout of Bowling Green. Now, BGSU might be a bit down this year (we'll all see about that), but the Falcons are still the team that made the D1AA fall final a year ago. They played pretty well last Saturday, too, especially in the scrums, where they shoved OSU back a few times and forced the Buckeyes to rethink a little bit about how they will approach that part of the game.

But Ohio State's overall game is very strong, and when you're losing your scrums and you still shut out the other team, you've got to be doing something right defensively.

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(The lineouts for both teams were poor, but Rooney chalks that up to the fact he brought in brand-new balls for the game and hadn't broken them in yet, making them somewhat slick.)

"We did pretty well," Rooney said. "I like our team and I think we're pretty much on the same page. We've got some good quality players from the Ohio area, and we were committed on defense, which I think is key."

Against Oklahoma, OSU will have worked a little harder on the scrums and will be determined to put in a good showing for what could be a big home crowd. The Buckeyes return two hookers from last year and have a very snappy backline, with Andrew Baldado looking solid. The scoring talent of Matt Stauder, Jojo Eramo, and Ronan Forrestal makes the Buckeyes an attacking threat at any moment. Rooney also got some good news from Wheeling Jesuit transfer Jaimie Barlow, who thought he had at least a semester of eligibility left. As it turned out, Barlow has a whole year remaining, something Rooney didn't expect.

Oklahoma warmed up for this game against the Tulsa men's club, a game the Sooners won, and also against Oklahoma State.

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And while the weekend went well, OU head coach Doug Neubauer said there's more to do. 

"We're good," he said. "We're more well rounded. The last couple of years, if our forwards didn't set the tone early, we were in trouble. This year we are more balanced, but we are still very young."

The Sooners have recruited a couple of players who just missed out on a spot on the football team, and they have added some spark to a squad led by John Lucas and Logan Ronan. Watch out for flyhalf Richard Papenfus, who is in from South Africa and pretty adept, but Neubauer warned the young player is "still a freshman and still figuring things out."

So Saturday's matchup might not be the polished game that's expected of the football teams; both teams are easing into things and have challenging conference seasons to come. At least it's good to see the Buckeyes and Sooners finally play.

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