NCR D1AA Pared Down to Four
NCR D1AA Pared Down to Four
Your NCR D1AA last four are Louisville, Boston College, Kentucky, and two-time defending champions Virginia Tech.
The GRR DIAA rankings, which include teams not in NCR, list Kentucky at #1, VT at #2, and Louisville #4 after they erased losses to Bowling Green and Western Michigan by beating both in their conference playoffs. And BC are ranked #12.
All four were ranked higher than the team they beat.
For Boston College, defense was excellent, holding West Chester to just the lone try in the 22-5 decision.
Fullback Matt Brown scored the opening try for BC and that was followed by a score from flanker Willie Roberts on a pick-and-go. Bobby Voth set up his halfback mate Declan Quirke on a nifty offload for the third try, and outside center Jack McNicholl capped it off with the fourth try.
"Our scrum and lineout drew turnovers and penalties all day," said club president John Kalil. "Really proud of how the team played. It was a great sendoff in the last home match for the seniors."
Captain and openside flanker Matt Ricciardelli was BC's player of the game, leading brilliantly and setting the example on defense and in the breakdown.
Kentucky beat NC State 32-12 in what was the most lopsided game of the bracket, but that doesn't mean it was easy. Wildcat Head Coach Sam Enari rostered five props on the day in anticipation of the side of the Wolfpack forwards, and he wasn't wrong to do so.
"NC State is one of the few teams able to match us up front," said Enari. "They were, 1 through 8, bigger than us and they play as a unit. They had a plan and they stuck to it and it it took us longer than I expected to wear them down."
Several freshmen played in this game, at one point seven on the field at the same time, and one of those first-years, openside flanker Holden Hahn, scored three tries on the day. Always reliable prop Jared Monnier scored the opening try for Kentucky and reserve prop Blaine Donlon finished it up with a try.
But they struggled to piece all the backline attacks together and NC State did very well to slow ball down and disrupt Kentucky possession.
the backs did run well and, for the most part, defended successfully, but handling mistakes early made it a little more difficult for them.
"All the things NC State needed to do to give us trouble, they did," said Enari.
Kentucky's fitness and their depth helped them finish strong. Showing well for the Wildcats was Ed Durham, who got his first A-side time, playing all 80 minutes at wing and center and showing great poise.
Louisville had to come back to beat Tennessee in a bit of a nailbiter. Tennessee had the run of play and led 21-5 at halftime.
"We came out of the gate flat," said Louisville Head Coach Emil Walton. We couldn't really play the way we want to play for the first 20 or 30 minutes."
At halftime the units on the Cardinals split up and the right five endured a few harsh works and Louisville turned the tables in the second-half. They worked their way closer, but then the game was delayed as Devon Roosna was treated for a nasty broken leg (Roosna was taken to the hospital, and had surgery Sunday). That was a tough injury for Roosna and a loss for Louisville. However, the Cardinals stormed on to tie the game 21-21.
Late in the game Tennessee slotted a penalty to take the lead 24-21, but moments later hooker Liam Flynn went over to put Louisville ahead; with the covnersion it was 28-24.
Cameron Donlon scored two tries for Louisville and as the game came to a close was able to steal the ball out of the ruck to end the game.
"We had some starters on the bench so they could come in at the second half and make an impact, and they did," said Walton. "The boys dug deep."
Louisville will take on Virginia Tech, which had to battle hard against a tenacious UMass defense. Two tries from Matt Huelsman and one from Ben Hondros, along with 10 points from the boot of prop and captain Hunter Danesi saw the Hokies through 25-22.
"They were just a very disciplined and tough defensive opponent," said Danesi, who said that Huelsman's game was marked not just by his tries but his consistent ability to break tackles and make ground. The decision to go for goal was also critical and not something many top-ranked teams do, because usually they win comfortably. But opting for points when they were on offer kept Virginia Tech ahead.
"The wind was a huge factor otherwise we would have considered kicking for points more often," said Danesi. "We allowed them to claw back at the end by giving up two late tries so I really credit the resilience of the UMass side."