ARIZONA ZOOMS BY AIR FORCE TO ELITE EIGHT
#14 Arizona 51
#18 Air Force 7
Sean Coleman and the Wildcats jumped up on Saturday in to next week's national quarterfinal.
Apr 17- Arizona got their postseason underway on Saturday in Colorado, taking on #18 Air Force in the first round of the 2017 D1A Playoffs. Saturday was a rematch of last month's classic in Las Vegas, with the Wildcats edging the Zoomies 30-28 in a thriller.
This time around, Arizona did not start slow, with some great patient attack and a burst by Wing Dante Weeks in the first minute putting the Wildcats on the board 5-0 to set the tone. Soon after team captain and Flyhalf Kyle Rogers hit a gap in the defense from ten meters out for a try which Center Luke Thayer converted to make it 12-0. That start, coupled with great defensive pressure, was huge for the young team. "We did little things well in the first fifteen minutes, that set the tone for the whole day but we knew Air Force would battle for 80 minutes" said Head Coach Sean Duffy. One player who continued his strong form is Scrumhalf Matt Rogers, who took advantage of turnover ball to score a try in the corner to make it 17-0 in the 24th minute. Air Force, as always, responded well, working their way downfield and taking advantage of Arizona mistakes to make it 17-7 and inject life in to the home side. Knowing the importance of scores just before halftime, though, the Wildcats put together arguably one of their best tries of the year, with Weeks gashing the line on a counterattack and finding support, with quick hands putting Prop Kurt Vecchio in the corner to make it 22-7 going in to halftime. "When a Prop scores on a counterattack, you know your team is working together well" said Duffy.
This cushion was tested early in the second half though, as Air Force came out with fire and put pressure on the Wildcats. Center Ben Joseph, the game-winning try scorer from the team's matchup in March, slammed the door shut from there, scoring two tries to make it 36-7 and help seal it for the Wildcats. The Arizona reserves came on from there and kept the energy high, with Prop Cody Hunt and Flanker Ben Scoular making big contributions in the final quarter. The Wildcats would score another two tries on the day, with Wing Ryan Hudson and Scoular each dotting down and Thayer hitting a penalty to give the Wildcats the 51-7 lead and punch their ticket to the national quarterfinal for the second straight year. "Pleased with our growth since March, guys like Kyle Rogers and Ben Joseph really took control today, and the unsung heroes like Steven Branham and Ryan Fitzpatrick continue to shine in the Forwards. We still feel we can be better, I felt we underperformed at times in their 22 so that's an area we will work to improve this week, and we're thankful to have another week together."
Arizona now advances to take on Red River Conference Champion Baylor University, traveling to Waco, Texas this weekend. A victory over the Bears would put Arizona in the final four for the first time in program history.
Tries: B. Joseph (2), Weeks, K. Rogers, M. Rogers, Vecchio, Hudson, Scoular
Conversions: Thayer- 4/8
Penalties: Thayer- 1/3