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Shock Result Shakes Up Great Midwest

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Shock Result Shakes Up Great Midwest

Illinois State downed U. Chicago. Photo Brandy Piper.

The BIG GAME of the Great Midwest might not be quite as big as anticipated, but still carries some caché.

Loyola expected their clash with Chicago to be the decider for the GMW South, and those two meet on Sunday. However, Chicago's 19-14 loss to Illinois State puts that entire scenario into a bit of flux. Can Chicago beat mighty Loyola? Yes, sure they can. But if they do, will we have a three-way tie atop that division?

U. Chicago isn't thinking about that because tonight they play Northwestern in the annual Hutchins-Scott Cup challenge match. UC has to get that job done and then play Loyola on Sunday, which will be tough.

Meanwhile, Illinois State? Meh, they get the weekend off and don't play until October 20.

"U. of Chicago was a big win for us," said ISU's Nevin Smith. "We are a pretty young team with a larger majority of players who have never played rugby before. We have definitely come a long way from the beginning of the season with the rapid development of these young buys."

So is this the same Illinois State that just barely beat Northern Illinois and lost by 35 to Loyola? Maybe not.

"This [past] weekend really showed what kind of team we can be when it comes to composure and trusting in the fundamentals of the sport," said Smith. "Although this weekend was a big win for us, our focus immediately shifted to our final in season game against Northwestern in two weeks. Using our bye week this upcoming weekend, we look to continue to improve our offensive strategy, and with determination, clinch a playoffs spot by defeating a tough Northwestern opponent."  

Danny Appel has been powerful in the forwards for ISU and backs captain Anthony McMahon led a good defensive showing. On attack, the forwards get them going and Derek Carlson and Sean Archer carried well.

So keep an eye on Illinois State. They've surprised people before. Chicago is not out of it as a result of that loss, but they do have to make sure they don't slip up. At the same time, Northwestern, like UC, is playing most of their schedule in the next few weeks (academic schedules have something to do with this). So a win tonight for either team launches a mad dash to try to make the semis.

In The North ...

In the north Northern Iowa's monumental 72-3 win over Wisconsin Whitewater puts them at 3-0 and UWW at 2-1. So despite that loss, Whitewater is still 2nd in the North at 2-1. 

"As soon as we got the ball in our hands we were able to put up points," said UNI's Jentry Staack. "We took our time with our structure and played a very physical match. Our defense kept the pressure ip and forced them to make mistakes."

UNI was led in part bu flanker Ben Hoeger who had a massive day, while lock Elliott Sinwell made key meters with ball in hand. They drafted in freshman Caden Franzen to start (and finish) at inside center and he impressed.

So Northern Iowa seems in control. The chase for second is still open. Wisconsin-Milwaukee plays UNI this week and would love to get a win. Northern Iowa is favored but a bonus point would help UMW.

Why? Because they play Whitewater a week later, and a win there could tie the two teams at 2-2. Could that happen? Maybe. If it does, Marquette is suddenly all excited. They are still smarting from a 15-8 loss to Whitewater and took it out on Milwaukee last week to the tune of 69-0. If Milwaukee beats Whitewater, and Marquette wins this weekend over UW-Platteville, you might see a three-team tie at 2-2. 

But the most likely scenario sees the semis being Northern Iowa hosting either Illinois State, Chicago, or Northwestern, and Loyola hosting Whitewater on October 28.