FloRugby’s live coverage of Red River Conference games begins this weekend, just as the conference is trying to figure itself out.
Already, with only five games done, there are questions about exactly which team is on top. Texas started the season with a pre-league victory over Baylor and then a convincing 67-11 dismissal of TCU. You’d think, then, that the Longhorns would be fine at home against Texas A&M. Not so much. The Aggies won big this past Saturday, 45-14.
Texas A&M coach James Lowrey said his talented, young team is starting to improve, but the Aggies also have to learn how to play at the D1A level. Their next test comes this Saturday, when Texas A&M hosts Oklahoma in College Station.
“It’s a big adjustment for some of them, but they’re working hard,” he said. “We have a tendency to embellish our achievements when we haven’t achieved anything. So as a coach, my job is to keep them honest. We’ve got to go out and find out what you’re really made of.”
Lowrey added that the strong high school system in Texas has presented him with young players who know how to play the game, “but that doesn’t mean they know it all.”
As the Aggies prepare for their second RRRC matchup, Braeden Hood continues to be a factor at No. 8, and he works nicely with scrumhalf Justin Brown.
“It was a good early test for us and to do it on the road was good,” Lowrey said. “But we know it’s going to be tough all through the conference. We’ll just take it week by week.”
Oklahoma has already experienced its share of adversity to start the conference schedule.
After the Sooners mixed and changed their backline in the early weeks, they settled on an effective midfield pairing of Najee Bissoon (who also has played football at OU), and All-Conference veteran John Lucas. However, those two went down with injuries last week, leaving head coach Doug Neubauer precious little time to get back to square one and reconfigure the backline before traveling to Texas Tech on Saturday.
The shorthanded Oklahoma lineup didn't fare well against the Red Raiders, who broke off a series of long-range runs, some producing tries and some leading to attacking chances that became tries later. Alexander Brown scored two of those, and flyhalf Michael McCabe logged 13 points with his boot in Texas Tech's 53-0 win.
“We have some talented players,” Neubauer said. "But we have just been trying to find the right combinations. We know it won’t be easy to do that when we’re playing Tech, A&M, and then Baylor. I think we can get there. Most of our issues were in our defense. Our timing was off. I don’t think we were terrible all the time, but we’d take a breather and they would hurt us.”
This coming weekend also sees Arkansas travel to LSU (1-0) in the Razorbacks' first conference game of the season. Arkansas recently lost to Arkansas State, but the 31-19 scoreline gives the Razorbacks reason for confidence. LSU’s lone conference game was a 76-12 rout of Houston.
Defending champion Baylor visits TCU (1-1), which is also coming off a win over Houston.