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After edging Saint Mary’s last weekend 30-29, #1 Brigham Young University returned home for their first game at South Field in Provo, Utah in nearly 11 months against the #18 U.S. Air Force Academy. The Zoomies put up a fight, but the Cougars turned in a solid effort across the board with Ara Elkington and Kevin Schofield each scoring three tries to torch Air Force, 80-8.
“The key was execution,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “We executed better today against Air Force than last week which is what we are working towards, but still a little bit of accuracy to work on as well. Execution today was the main thing.”
Air Force began the game with a penalty kick by Grigor Kerdikoshvili, but it was all BYU for the rest of the half. The Cougars took control and scored five tries in 20 minutes. Ara Elkington, Joshua Anderson, Ricky Tu’ihalangingie, Jackson Kaka and Kevin Schofield each scored with Calvin Whiting making four of his five conversions. At the half, BYU led 33-3.
Similar to the first half, the Zoomies came out of the intermission inspired as co-captain Ben Burmester scored a try from a multi-phase attack off of a ruck. However, BYU rolled out once again scoring seven more tries. With Ara Elkington leading the way with three tries in the half, Ryan Blaser, Win Elkington, Schofield (2), and Jonny Layne each scored. Whiting finished his day with six more conversions, including hitting five straight to close the game.
“In our set pieces, we continued to do well there and our backs had a much better game than last week,” Smyth stated. “We were able to get the ball through hands and have a few gaps. We got the ball out wide and were able to put some width to their game, which helped us quite a bit... We were more positive. We hit the holes a little bit better today and were able to set some guys up.”
Regarding his opponent, Smyth remarked, “Air Force is a good team, all things considered. They are progressing. They have some big boys and they are physical. You can tell they are trying to stick to their pattern, they have some systems in there now. I was impressed.”
In discussing the difference between the two teams on the pitch, Air Force head coach Denny Meridith said, “the first piece is experience. You see the experience deficit we have to overcome. We have to overcome that with tenacity and pressure. The second piece is [BYU] has been playing together for a while so their ability to work together as a team overpowered us in certain situations that we are still working to develop. “
Next week, BYU welcomes Central Washington to South Field. Coach Smyth expects a tough game and said, “They are a very physical side. They have some good rugby players and they are well coached. They are a varsity program that has really come along. They are pretty good at every area of the game. We strongly played them in the semifinal of the Varsity Cup last year and they were a very good team. We expect to be tested in every aspect: scrum, lines, set pieces, and in the loose, too. They are just a good rugby team.”