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Chico State Pulls Off Surprise

College Men

Chico State Pulls Off Surprise

A tired but happy Chico State poses as a team after beating UC Davis. But they will likely have to do it again this weekend.

So it happened that the defending DIAA national champions lost a game this past weekend.

It also happened that the team they lost to, Chico State, is coached by Mike Purcell, who coached UC Davis to a DIAA title in 2015 before being replaced by Kal Incendy, who repeated the feat in 2016. Might there be a little baggage their. Possibly. Certainly there's a rivalry, as Chico State and UC Davis rolled on a collision course to each other, winning all of their games through the Pacific Western Conference season.

But if you looked at the scores, you might be forgiven for thinking that there wasn't going to be a much of a contest. In the six league games each played beforehand, against the same six Pac West opponents, UC Davis had a better winning margin in every game. A couple (Nevada, San Francisco State), were almost the same, but still Davis had the better result; others showed a massive dichotomy (UC Davis beat Stanford 79-12, while Chico State beat them 39-29, for example).

So then Chico State goes and holds off UC Davis 31-27. Purcell felt he had an idea why that happened.

"They're used to the pressure and have had to endure more adversity throughout the season," said the Chico State coach. "We've worked a lot on trying to balance the whole game out, and make sure we're playing good defense. We work on defense a lot on practice. Our team was so fired up on game day. I didn't think anything was going to stop them."

Chico State's lineout functioned very well and they undercut th Aggies' efforts there. The scrum, also, was solid and toward the end of the game CSU seemed to have the ascendency. Danny Lalor at flyhalf was superb with his kicking from the hand and the tee.

"He's gotten a lot better through the year, knowing what to do," said Purcell. Lalor kicked four penalties on the day and added two out of three conversions.But in addition, up front prop Matthew Mulholland was superb, and scored a try in the game, while locks Kevin Watson and Kyle Van Riet led a very good forward effort. 

The back row unit of Thomas Gust, Jake Wiley, Brandon Roscoe was also outstanding, while out wide, center John Fondale was a bit of a wrecking ball.

So that it a brilliant result for Chico State, but it decides almost nothing. What it means is that CSU wins the regular season in the Pac West, but there's this weekend's playoffs to consider. Chico State, as the #1 seed, will gt to play Nevada-Reno on Saturday, a team they beat 33-12 earlier in the season, but also a team that has been improving. UC Davis takes on UC Santa Cruz, another improving team that the Aggies dispatched 51-17 in the regular season.

All indications point to a Chico State v UC Davis final on Sunday. That rematch is for a place in the DIAA playoffs.

"I don't know how that will go," said Purcell. "I think it'll be another close game. We're pretty evenly matched, and I hope we can pull it off again."