SafeGuard World International: Texas Rugby Event Sponsor for 2015 Penn Mutual CRC

Texas Rugby would like to give special thanks to SafeGuard World International, our event sponsor for the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. They are financially supporting our travel and accommodation to Philadelphia, and also donating 50 tickets to the Big Brothers Big Sisters or Eastern PA in support of our ongoing philanthropy.

SafeGuard World International serves the global employment needs for companies of all sizes, with large or small employee populations in mature and emerging international markets. In business since 2008, they offer Global Payroll Services, Global Employment Outsourcing and Global Professional Services and much more. \m/ Hook’em SGWI!!

Academic Excellence in Texas Rugby

With the new semester just beginning Texas Rugby would like to acknowledge several of its members for their performance in the classroom from the previous semester.

   Fall 2014
Texas Rugby Members with Perfect GPA of 4.0
 Name Classification Major
 Reed Hogan Sophomore Economics
 Jon Murphy Freshman Undeclared
  Texas Rugby Members with GPA of 3.0 or Higher
David Blinn Freshman Radio Television Film
Alex Cook Freshman Mechanical Engineering
Brandon Kveton Freshman Undeclared
Daniel Nwoko Freshman Mechanical Engineering
Lior Vansteenkiste Freshman Computer Science
Timothy Yoder Freshman  Civil Engineering
Nadim Aly Sophomore Economics
Stefan Cavazos Sophomore Economics
Alex Fort Sophomore Business
William Gaul Sophomore Mathematics
Charlie Schwan Sophomore Radio Television Film
Steven Taylor Sophomore Chemical Engineering
Carson Youman Sophomore Management Information Systems
Wade Bennett Junior Sports Management / Pre-Law
Felix Gaulke Junior Finance
Matthew Inman Junior Petroleum Engineering
William Kuhn Junior Finance
Adrian Ruiz Junior History / Corporate Communications Majors
Gabriel Smith Junior International Relations & Global Studies Major
John Boudreaux Senior Chemical Engineering
Adan Briones Senior Computer Science
Bryan Leighton Senior International Relations & Global Studies Major
Tommy Gilmore Senior Spanish
Taylor Hayes Senior Mechanical Engineering
Mason Hopkins Senior Computer Science
Connor Kennedy Senior Advertising
Felix Olazaran Senior Computer Science / Economics / Mathematics
Claudio Ramirez Senior Communications Studies / Economics
Joseph Reistroffer Senior Chemical Engineering
Hunter Wrobleske Senior Pure Mathematics
Matthew Young Senior Biochemistry

Texas Breaks Through Oklahoma State on Their Path to Texas A&M

On November 8th, Oklahoma State Rugby traveled down to Austin, Texas to take on Red River Conference rival Texas.

Texas traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma in November 2013 and fell to the Cowboys, 38-3. It was a hard loss on the road. Preparing for the game last Saturday the veterans who had traveled the previous fall did not want to feel the same sting of defeat on their own pitch, which the Longhorns felt after their recent loss from St. Edward’s.

“We’ve had a rough couple of games this season,” said Assistant Coach, Justin Oxford. “It wasn’t from a lack of fitness or talent. The cause was lack of mental commitment and discipline. We kept breaking away from our gameplan and played more as individuals, not a team. And we all recognized that. We changed up our training plan. Added in more team-building drills and the improvement over the last three weeks has been tremendous.”

The improvement was obvious the moment the whistle blew Saturday. We saw an entirely new team. One that found its rhythm the moment the match started, not twenty minutes in. Captain Taylor Hayes set the tone of the match by scoring the first try of the day.

“I think that my first try was a result of our team’s general intensity out of the gates. We really set the tone early by putting in the big hits on defense and being hungry for tackles,” Hayes stated. “The try then acted as a springboard and caused our team to raise our intensity even higher, eventually giving us the win and result we wanted.”

This new Texas team brought the intensity and finished the first half leading 34-0. The intensity carried through to the second half, leading the Longhorns to a 71-0 victory over Oklahoma State.

Tommy Gilmore, the team’s Vice-Captain, stepped up and drove his forward pack off the line on defense and demoralized the Cowboys’ attack. The forwards did not stop there. They dominated in the scrums and at the breakdowns, scoring multiple tries in the process. Gilmore’s leadership earned him Man of the Match.

“Coming into this game we just needed to relax and have some fun. We were a bit down on ourselves after some tough losses, so Buss gave us time to refocus on having fun and just playing rugby as a team. We have incredible athletes on this team, and it feels good to get back on track,” Gilmore said.

The intensity did not stop there. The Texas B-side took the field against Oklahoma State’s B-side fired up and ready to go.

The B-side came out focused and driven against an already demoralized Oklahoma State team. Hunter Wrobleske, veteran 7s player and Man of the Match, led the team to a 22-10 victory.

We talked with Wrobleske after the match. “It was easy to perform confidently and dominantly knowing we had an upper hand in terms of morale. I would have been disappointed if we played any less than how we did. We played good rugby.”

After a weekend of good rugby Texas has their sights set on our biggest rival, Texas A&M, as Head Coach Chris Hopps told us.

“We took care of business Saturday. It felt good. Now it’s A&M week.”

Texas takes on Texas A&M this Saturday, November 15, at 2pm at Burr Field here in Austin. The address is posted below. For friends and fans, parking will be $5 at the gate. We will see you there in your burnt orange!! Hook’em \m/

Burr Field Address:
6013 Loyola Lane
Austin, Texas 78724

Red River Rivalry – Texas vs Oklahoma Preview

Liking and respecting are two very different things – you don’t have to like someone to respect them. Texas rugby head coach Christopher Hopps makes that very clear.

“We have tremendous respect for OU,” Hopps stated. “They have had some great results, but we don’t like them.  I don’t like any of them.”

Distain for the Oklahoma Sooners is not uncommon on UT’s campus. If you’re on the E-bus heading to 6th Street on a Friday night, it’s likely you’ll hear the famous chant, “O-U…SUCKS!” And around this time of year, Red River Rivalry season, any clock is an opportunity for Longhorn students and fans to proclaim, “It’s ____ o’clock and OU still sucks.”

But the emotions are intensified in the athletes themselves. Stakes are especially high this year, especially for seniors, like Taylor Hayes, Tommy Gilmore and captain John Boudreaux who will never get another chance at redemption.

“I can’t tell you how badly guys like Taylor, Tommy and I want to go out on top,” Boudreaux said. “I haven’t been able to sleep all week because of how badly I want this game to happen.”

On March 1, 2014, the last meeting of the two teams, Oklahoma shut out Texas rugby, 39-0.

“It was humiliating,” Hopps recalls.

In the 223 days since then, the Longhorns have been hungry for revenge.

“The redemption aspect of this game is huge for everyone that was there last year,” Boudreaux added. “I think this is definitely compounded by the fact that this is the last time that our seniors who have been here all four years get to play OU.”

The cold, dreary weather on that day in March reflected the mood around the Texas sideline. Frustration was building and disappointment growing. Hopps encouraged the team to play on with integrity and to try to make the best of a bleak situation, but a shut-out is always demeaning no matter who the team is that dishes it out. However, it stings all the more worse when it comes from a longtime rival like Oklahoma.

“It’s OU,” Hopps stated simply. “There’s nothing like it. You could slap UT and OU T-shirts on kids playing chess and they are going to want to come out and smack each other around. “

OU head coach Jason Horowitz acknowledges this fact but doesn’t give it too much weight.

“Its just another rugby game. We prepare the same, play the same,” he said. “The other team wants to win as much as we do. It simply comes down to who is more prepared and who can execute on both sides of the ball.”

Perhaps a reason why Horowitz doesn’t devote too much interest in emotions is because of his confidence in his team. Even Hopps notes that, “they look ten times better this year than last year.”

Execution comes down to strengths- who’s faster, stronger, more technical, works better as a unit, etc. But thus far in the season, Hopps hasn’t been able to pin point a specific advantage that Texas can rely on.

“Our tempo could be a strength, our defense could be a strength, but we aren’t consistently doing any of those things well enough yet,” he said.

Hopps hopes his team will develop as the game goes on and a strength strong enough to carry Texas to a win will emerge, but similar to the Texas vs. OU football game that will be going on Saturday, the Longhorns are underdogs. Texas will need to rely on their passions and their eight returning seniors to pull out a victory tonight.

“Win lose or draw I can speak for every one of our guys in saying we are excited that we get to line up run as hard as we can into some Sooners, give them our best shot, take their best shot and see where we end up at the end of the night,” Hopps said.

Gray Matter Technologies – A Texas Rugger Startup

The sharp cracking of helmets elicits a huge roar and slight grimace from the crowd. One football player is temporarily stunned, lying motionless on the field, but that hit will make every high light reel for the next week. The cheering is all good-natured of course because eventually that player will return to his feet and to his position on the field.

This happens all to often in football, or any sport for that matter. Athletes sustain serious blows to the head, frequently resulting in concussions, and simply walk it off back to the line of scrimmage.

Tanner Avery, a senior on the rugby team, knows this all too well.

“I’ve hidden concussions from my coach because I’ve wanted to play,” Avery said. “I’ve not remembered halves of games. I have game film that I don’t remember playing.”

Avery is by no means alone in his experiences. Senior quarterback David Ash who attempted a comeback after sustaining a season ending concussion in 2013, “got his bell rung” early in the game against BYU, but continued to play through. Now, he will never take a snap again.

“In those high stress situations, rules, common sense, that all gets bent,” Avery said. “And that’s not going to be solved by the players or the organizations… The current forces at work are not being held accountable.”

That’s why Avery decided to take matters into his own hands and create Gray Matter Technologies. Yes, it has the same name as Walter White’s company in Breaking Bad, but a slightly different focus. Avery’s start up company is currently concentrating on creating a high tech mouth guard, which he is calling “G-Force,” that will alert the wearer of potential brain injuries.

“We use high tech sensors that we imbed in our mouth pieces, they’re completely sealed,” Avery explained simply. “Then we send this data, which records every single motion you make, to a mobile device.”

The G-Force mobile app alerts you with a direct message stating whether or not an athlete suffered a blow severe enough to warrant secondary testing and evaluation. And it’s not limited to football or rugby.

“Our product is not sport specific. You don’t need a helmet to use our product,” Avery said. “We want anyone in the world playing a sport to be able to use this mouth guard as a diagnostic tool.”

Similar products to the “G-Force” mouth guard do exist, but Avery claims his will be equal quality for a lesser price.

“We don’t believe [the competition] is cost effective. 150 dollars, that’s a bit much,” he said. “A mouthpiece can be bought by a single mother whereas a helmet maybe costs 300 dollars by itself.”

However, working hard on creating a successful company isn’t always easy when you also have to balance majoring in mechanical engineering and playing rugby. But that’s what Longhorn Startup Lab is for.

Essentially, Longhorn Startup Lab is a three-hour course in which highly experienced entrepreneurs, like Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, a multibillion dollar company, advise and mentor students as they attempt to create their own companies. But you can’t just go online and register. The application process is rigorous.

Metcalfe makes it sound simple. “They apply, we review,” he said. “If we can help them advance their product we admit them.”

If only it were that easy. Avery worked for eight months to prepare his application.

“It’s incredibly difficult,” Avery said. “We had to demonstrate a viable product, get a business plan, get a prototype, start working with suppliers. We really had to go through every single step of the process.”

Avery was accepted into the program about two weeks ago and is now receiving what he says is “invaluable” assistance from Metcalfe and other mentors.

“It’s hard to define what success is in this program,” Metcalfe said. “But I would say about 50 total companies/products created here are still in existence.”

In 12 months, when Avery has graduated, he plans to still be working on expanding Gray Matter Technologies. By that time he hopes to be selling units to “anyone and everyone who needs it.” Although there is no cure-all for concussions, Avery hopes that every single athlete in a contact sport will eventually incorporate his product into their game day attire.

The Battle Up Front

While guys like seniors Taylor Hayes and John Boudreaux get their names in the paper and most of the hype during the season, almost all rugby enthusiasts will tell you it’s the battle up front that impacts performance the most.

Texas was fortunate the last few years with experienced campaigners like Danny Camara, Ekongi Yancy, Greg Hesch, Fernando Assing, and Santiago Cardenas at prop. With Camara and Yancy getting in a ton of work last Spring the Longhorns were especially strong in the front row. Texas, along with hookers Matt Bomberger and Adrian Ruiz, had the edge in set pieces for most games and put in some dominant performances. Against Navy in the Varsity Cup, out of all areas in the game, Texas performed the best at scrum time.

“We try to set the platform for the rest of the game in our set pieces. We’ve come a long way and Danny, Matty, and Ekongi proved that with their performance in the Varsity Cup matches against the best competition in the Country,” said Head Coach Chris Hopps. 2014-2015 looks to be a different challenge all together however, as Camara and Yancy have graduated, and Bomberger is still coming back from an injury he picked up playing Navy. Bomberger fractured an orbital and had to have surgery and a titanium plate inserted, and while he asserts that he is still the best looking forward he won’t be back to full strength on the field until mid season.  “It was really tough; I’m glad I got through most of the match before it happened, but it’s been a long road.  I had to make up some work in the academic world. Before, I was looking forward to adding some work in the offseason. Now, all of the plans changed. Though its a challenge I’m looking to overcoming it,” said senior player Bomberger.

The cupboard isn’t bare though, as Adan Briones and Lorenzo Ramirez put in some solid performances at times spelling last years front liners. Briones earned high praise and worked his way up the depth chart to get significant time in the season-ending Varsity Cup National Championship. Briones was new to rugby in the Fall and impressed staff immediately with his work rate and reliability. Pushing himself and his ability to get through work and limit mistakes made it impossible not to include him in the team at the top level, and showed a willingness to get into the physical contests required of a front row forward.  Ramirez had a different path, joining the team in the Spring as a center. “I saw him run the ball once and immediately knew he was destined for the front row,” laughed Coach Hopps. There was no laughing though when Ramirez got comfortable in the scrum.  He turned out to be one of the strongest Longhorns and Hesch, now in a coaching role with the Longhorns, lamented, “Zo’s is pure power and aggression. He and Adan are a good match because Adan is steady and controlled, while Lorenzo is kind of all over the place, carrying the ball and making hits.”  The staff maintains that there is a long road ahead to reach the heights of the last few years.  Ramirez has a tendency to get lost in up-tempo games and spend energy in areas where he doesn’t need to, and Briones will need the added bulk of summer training to stand up to Texas Rugby grind for the Varsity Cup.

No question the Longhorns will rely heavily on the shoulders of Briones and Ramirez, and experience campaigner Adrian Ruiz. Ruiz wasn’t a backup in 2014 as the Longhorns enjoyed the luxury of hooker by campaign or more accurately hooker according to competition according to Hopps. “There was no 1 or 2 at the hooker positon. Adrian brought a very physical game and was slightly better in the scrums, while Matty was an accurate and powerful lineout thrower and a more of an outside threat. Adrian was a 3rd prop and Matty was a 4th loose forward.” Summed up Hopps.  Ruiz is back for his 3rd season as a Longhorn rugby player and has started to ascend to more of a leadership role.  Also looking to contribute are junior Niels Cobb, senior Connor Kennedy, and sophomore Charles Wittel. The Longhorns are looking at a 5-man rotation at prop and 3 hookers capable of competing at a Varsity Cup level.

Don’t expect the front row Longhorns to get much hype as usual but look for them in the newspaper – maybe exhausted from springing a streaking Hayes or Boudreaux.

Texas Rugby Hanging Tough

Don’t ask Jacob Liberman about Texas being the “new kid on the block”. He would more likely give you stories about Donnie, Joey, and Jordan than tell you Texas rugby has “made it”. Despite finishing their last 7’s tournament ranked 12th in the country Liberman has doubts about rating Texas as a tournament favorite. “We don’t think about stuff like that, we just want to get our preparation right and come out and perform like we know how,” advised the 7’s coach.

The University of Texas Rugby team will kickoff at their 4th Collegiate Rugby 7’s Championship in 4 years Friday against the University of Michigan at the Philadelphia Union Stadium in Pennsylvania. Coach Jacob Liberman has led the team in the previous 3 tournaments and has seen the team transform from wide-eyed overachievers to salty veteran campaigners. “Every year the level of competition goes up, so I think we have really improved but I also think everyone else has as well,” remarked Liberman.

Texas is led by captain and 5th year senior, Noah Villalobos. Villalobos is a 3-time Academic All American and one of the all-time best 7’s players to come through Texas. “Noah came in as a really hard-nosed guy,” said Liberman. “He wanted those big hits and to run guys over, but 7’s has really rounded out his game. Even though he’s a bigger guy he can run and distribute at a very high level. He competes at the breakdown and really holds the structure together.”

Villalobos isn’t alone however, as a few starters from last year’s CRC team return as well. Junior Taylor Hayes, grayshirt senior Skylar Talley, junior Tanner Avery, senior Rafa Segovia, and sophomore Manny Nwoko round out an impressive list of veterans on the roster. Hayes is the shiftiest player on the squad and one of the team’s best distributors. He was also singled out for a National U20 team in 2013 because of his running abilities. Another National U20 trialist is Reed Hogan. Hogan was the Texas High School Player of the Year last spring and he is looking to make the jump from school-boy phenom to consistent college performer. Liberman commented, “Even though they both got national team looks Reed and Taylor are 2 different guys. Reed is a big guy who can move and, along with Avery and senior Peter Hyams, will look to match up with our opponents physicality.” Hyams came to the program only this year, but has shown flashes of all-around game that could take the Longhorns to the next level. Talley, a familiar name to Longhorn Rugby fans after being a top performer last year, just rejoined the team this following spring.

Mixed in with the veteran group is a troupe of exciting newcomers. Matt Young and Hunter Wrobleske can flat-out fly, and Carson Youman has been impressing the coaching staff all year with his ability to adjust and his overall composure. Youman came to the program from Virginia, so the tournament is a homecoming of sorts after a long year in Texas. Also in his first year is exciting prospect Felix Olazaran. Olazaran hails from south of the border and came with the lofty recommendation of Mexican age grade National Team coaches. Olazaran is expected to play the role of a creator and distributor on the team.

Starting their tournament this Friday evening, Texas faces off against the CRC newcomer, the University of Michigan Wolverines. Knowing what to expect in such tournaments is difficult, but Michigan is expected to be big, fit, and well drilled. This is their first CRC and Texas is hoping that the occasion will give them the edge. Next, the ‘Horns will face their second Big 10 opponent , Ohio State. OSU won the Big 10 tournament to qualify after a year of not making the field at the CRC. The Buckeyes always have a couple top-tier athletes and are a team that really likes to impose its physicality.

The final group game will pit the Longhorns against the United States Naval Academy in what is quickly becoming a heated rivalry. Texas took some lumps in their 15s match against Navy during the 2014 Varsity Cup. In the fall 2013 College 7s National Championship, Navy defeated Texas in Day one with a last minute try and successful conversion to put them up by two. In Day 2 of the championship, Texas came out facing Navy again, regrouping themselves and coming away with a 17-10 victory to finish ranked 12th overall.

The Texas coaches will look for strong contributions from Hayes, Villalobos, Talley, and Hyams to push through the group stages and push for a place in the Cup quarterfinals. For Texas to be able to turn up the speed the inside players have to be strong defenders and accurate distributers. In a field that features Dartmouth, Cal, Arizona, and UCLA this will be the toughest event the team will face.

Stay tuned for match updates and watch NBC Sports for us this Friday and Saturday!! Hook’em \m/

Disciplined Navy Sails Past A Rattled Texas

The Longhorns traveled to Annapolis, Maryland to take on a very disciplined Navy squad. Texas, rattled and full of yips, could not come together and overcome dialed-in Navy. Navy capitalized on Texas and sailed away with a 64-10 victory.

The first half was full of physicality. Both forward packs sized up one another with banger after banger; crash after crash. Navy pounded in a try at the seven-minute mark to put the first points on the board. Texas tried to answer with a dangerous attack of their own, but Navy’s blitz defense met the attack and shut it down early.

The Midshipmen were able to tack on two more tries before the Longhorns answered with one of their own in the 33rd minute. Going with a quick tap off of a penalty, Texas was able to shift past an unprepared Navy defense and get the ball to freshman #10 Steven Taylor, who fought his way in for 5. Having missed the conversion, Texas went in to the half down 26-5 after Navy powered in to the tryzone one last time.

Despite going in to the half down 21 points, Texas walked in to the locker room with their heads held high. Vice-captain John Boudreaux confirmed this following the match. “I was pretty pumped about how we performed in the first half. We were competitive and physical, and it was only a few basic errors that were letting us down.”

Navy comes out fast and hard, showing no signs of just playing a very physical 40 minutes of rugby, and punches Texas in the mouth with an 8-man pick off to score off of a defensive scrum three minutes in to the second half.

Texas, still showing signs of fight, held off a very dangerous Navy offense for 15 minutes before the Midshipmen break through and score putting them up 35 points at the 55-minute mark.

Shortly after Navy capitalizes on a Texas handling error and breaks through for a 55-meter try by Navy #6.

Texas fights through the deficit to put 5 for points on the board. Captain Peter Hyams sells a dummy and breaks through dragging two defenders across the try-line to put it down in the corner at the 62-minute mark.

The Midshipmen were able to push past the Longhorns to end the match 64-10.

Though the score suggests a complete wipeout the Longhorns were successful in many facets of the game. Texas put together several quick, dangerous attacks and came up hard on defense. Handling errors and bad offloads are what killed majority of their attacks. Navy capitalized on these errors and kept Texas on their heels with their physical blitz defense.

This was the final match for several Longhorn players. Senior loose-head prop Ekongi Yancy told us after the match, “It has been an honor to be a part of UT rugby the past 4 years. I have seen us evolve from just another club in Texas, to one of the top 8 teams in the nation. Watching the entire team fight until the final whistle, especially the younger guys, highlights the changes the club has gone through in my time here. While I’m sad to go, I am so excited that rugby at UT hasn’t even come close to its ceiling.”

Of the several leaving us, Captain Peter Hyams is one of them, who will be heading back to England shortly after the semester ends. “It has been an honor to play in burnt orange and particularly to lead the team onto the field. I’ve tried to represent the side and University in the right way and couldn’t have asked for more from my experience. I am very excited to transition into a supporter of UT Rugby because the future is so bright.”

Texas rugby would like to thank all of these players for their countless hours of commitment and for all the burnt orange they have bled for the club. We are especially thankful for graduating senior Danny Camara, who overcame many administrative challenges as club president to get Texas where they are now.

Now that the 15s season has ended, the Longhorns begin their 7s training on April 22nd. The 7s team, led by Head 7s Coach Jacob Liberman and Assistant 7s Coach Mickey Johnson, will be traveling to Philadelphia May 31st to compete in PPL Park in the 2014 Collegiate Rugby Championship. Stay tuned for updates!!

Hook’em \m/

All Hustle, No Luck

The Texas Longhorns were all hustle Saturday and unfortunately the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame ran out of luck.

The Longhorns have come a long way- in more ways than one. Literally, they drove nearly 40 hours roundtrip to get to Notre Dame’s pitch for their Saturday match-up. After a mix-up with the charter bus, the team was left with five minivans and 1,220 miles that registered drivers would have to take turns driving. Over the course of the weekend, those drivers drove at least eight hours each day- Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

But the Longhorns have also come a long way since the beginning of this season. In February when Texas took on SFA, the Longhorns were down 19 points at the half. A 19-point deficit to a team that is a full notch down from the caliber of Notre Dame. Texas nearly lost that game; it was only saved by a try in the final minute of the match. But the Longhorns are no longer the team they were back in February. The team that took the field Saturday was something even head coach Chris (Buss) Hopps had never seen before. After the game, Buss said that was the best game of rugby he had ever seen Texas play. Had that February team taken the field against the Fighting Irish on Saturday, the Longhorns wouldn’t have delivered a demanding 55-33 victory and wouldn’t be scrambling to make travel arrangements to Annapolis for the second round of the Varsity Cup.

Going into the Texas-Notre Dame match-up, the Longhorns were the clear underdogs. It was understood that Texas was at a disadvantage. Notre Dame is an established team with an impressive history. It is one of only seven teams to have been invited to all four Collegiate Rugby Championships, where as Texas is just now making an appearance on the national scale. But the Longhorns sure knew how to make an entrance.

Out of the four matches played in the first round, Texas was the only upset- the only team to cause a stir in the bracket. Originally, Texas wasn’t given a second glance; they were expected to suffer a likely shut-out loss and begin plans for next season. Instead it was the Longhorns who ran over the Fighting Irish in route to their 55-33 blow-out victory.

Not only was the rugby world shocked, but the Longhorns were a bit taken aback as well. A handful of the team couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that they had just handily beaten a varsity team, some had faith that they were capable all along, but all were astounded at the level that they performed, considering their experiences in the days leading into to the game.

The Longhorns were scheduled to leave for South Bend on Thursday. On Wednesday president Danny Camara received a call from the University Rec Sports department explaining to him that the charter bus he had reserved, the bus that was to transport the team to South Bend the next day, was no longer available.

“I felt like throwing up,” Camara said. “It was the biggest game in team history and suddenly we had no means of getting there.

With less than 24 hours to find an alternative and very limited options, Camara scrambled to reserve 5 minivans that the players would have to drive themselves to Indiana.

“The change put a lot of strain on the guys driving and there was some increased risk,” Camara said. “But the guys really stepped up to make lemonade out of lemons.”

The team did what they had to do to get to South Bend but 20 hours in a car is not the best way to spend the days leading up to the biggest match in team history.

The majority of the team started their journey to Notre Dame on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. They loaded up the vans and drove eight hours to Wagner, Oklahoma, where they rested for the night. By the time they arrived, around 2:00 a.m., they were fatigued and cramped. After settling into their rooms, they laid down to get as much sleep as possible. But that sleep didn’t last long and it wasn’t the most comfortable; nearly all of the guys were forced to share a bed; two beds and four players to a room. About four and half hours later, the Longhorns hopped back in the vans, groggy and weary, and took off to compete the remaining eleven hour drive.

By the 6:00 p.m. Saturday match, the majority of the team had only about eleven hours of rest since Thursday and had spent 20 hours relatively motionless in a van. Not the best preparation.

The team made their way to the field around 5:00 p.m., and as the Longhorns began to warm up there was an unusually calm mood in the air. Texas was about to play its most important game of the year, possibly ever, but no one was visibly agitated. Earlier in the season, when the team played OU, a non-conference rival game with much less at stake, there was a sense of tenseness and unrest. But on the turf in South Bend the guys were breathing easy. The Longhorns knew what was on the line. They knew a loss here meant their season was over. The seniors understood that without a victory, they would never play rugby at the University of Texas again, if ever. But still the calmness ensued.

Stern, determined faces emerged as Texas lined up to kick off. The Longhorns kicked off and the calmness transformed to urgency. A fumble by the Fighting Irish directed the ball right back into Texas possession. Instantly, a switched flipped in the Longhorns, the sleep-deprived, stiff-legged Texas team was no more. It was as if the only thing in the Longhorns’ sights was the try-zone. Ball carries brushed off tackles to get within a few meters of the try zone. A hand off by John Boudreauz sent captain Peter Hyams flying into the try-zone before a minute of play had elapsed.

“We were just crisp,” freshmen Charlie Schwan said. “We came out here and we knew what we had to do.”

Eight minutes into the first half Texas had already tacked 14 points onto the scoreboard. 11 minutes in the Fighting Irish finally began to respond. But Texas wasn’t interested in losing its lead. Within three minutes, the Longhorns were back in the try zone putting up five more.

At the half Texas was up 36-12- a 24 point lead.

Hyams circled the team up in front of the Texas sideline. His face was stern. As he paced around the center of the circle he explained that just because Texas had the lead didn’t mean Notre Dame was going to roll over. He had seen teams come back from deficits larger than this. The Longhorns were riding a high that could easy be pulled down by the Irish.

But the Texas stayed high in the second half. Senior Rafael Lopez Segovia made a statement as he crashed into the try zone before 5 and a half minutes were up. Texas was not giving up their lead.

“We knew we had got the lead, which was key in this game; get ahead and get control,” Hyams said. “We attacked hard and we ran at them hard so I’m delighted with the way that went.”

By the time the turf had settled and the clock found a resting point at 80:00 minutes, Hyams, Boudreaux, Taylor Hayes, Felix Olazaran, Charlie Schwan and Segovia, had all contributed at least one try to the Longhorns 55 point total. Not only was 55 points the most Texas has put up all season, but it was significantly more than the 33 points Notre Dame earned, effectively ending Notre Dame’s post-season run.

“We probably didn’t expect to score 55 points, you never really can expect to go out and do that,” Hyams said. “But in terms of the physicality and the challenge they presented, we were fully ready for that task.”

What allowed Texas to score 55 points was the lack of ball handling errors combined with an impressive performance by the backs. They stuck to game plan and swung the ball out wide when necessary, leading to four tries in the corners of the try-zone.

“If we stick to our patterns, stick to our game plan, we’re a dangerous team,” Ekongi Yancy said.

But it was more than plays and patterns that sent Texas home with the win.

“Potentially I could never play with these guys ever again, so I just gave it my all and ran at these dudes and it was awesome,” Schwan said. “I can’t even express how proud I am and how happy I am to be a part of this team. It was a great game.”

Although the Fighting Irish were undoubtedly disappointed, both teams gather on the field for post game sandwiches. As the teams sat cross-legged on the turf, the Notre Dame captain and Danny Camara stood in front of the group. Both sides extended congratulations and thanks for a great game, before exchanging gear. Players swapped Longhorn shirts for Fighting Irish jerseys; even coaches made trades.

After all the interchanges had been made and everyone got their fill of sandwiches, the Longhorns climbed back into the vans to make the 20 hour drive back to Austin.

Texas continues its run in the Varsity Cup against Navy on Saturday April 19, in Annapolis, Maryland.

Texas Prepares for The Varsity Cup

It’s crunch time.  Less than 10 days separate the clash between Texas and Notre Dame in the Varsity Cup.

This is a huge step for Texas Rugby.  In 2011, The Longhorns missed a shot at Division-II Nationals with a heartbreaking loss to Texas State in the final game of the year. The next year, Texas came out on a mission, winning the Southwest Conference in undefeated fashion, leading to a berth in the D-II Sweet 16.  Davenport University taught the young Longhorns a lesson about varsity level rugby, sending them back to Austin with a brutal 87-0 loss.

Two years later, Texas is back on the national stage to take on Notre Dame in the first round of the Varsity Cup.  The Varsity Cup is the highest-profile Collegiate Championship tournament in the United States, boasting household names like Cal, BYU, and Navy.  Texas joins Clemson, Utah, and long-time rival Oklahoma as newcomers to the competition this year.  The 12-team, single-elimination tournament begins April 12 when the Longhorns travel to South Bend Indiana to play Notre Dame. (Full schedule available at varsitycup.us/schedule/)

First-year Head Coach Christopher Hopps leads a surging team into the Varsity Cup, hot off a 40-17 win over Texas State in the SWC Championship Game.  Hopps said, “The Varsity Cup is the most important thing on the calendar, and everything we’ve done this year—physically, mentally, tactically—has been in preparation for this.” Hopps and his dedicated staff have put in countless hours to make sure that the Longhorns are completely ready for the challenge they face.

Texas is battle-tested after a brutal spring schedule that includes hard-fought losses to Army and Wisconsin.  In light of the losses, Coach Hopps said, “A good team will always lose to a good program.  This year, we have gotten the chance to test ourselves against a lot of good programs, and that’s the exact same challenge the Varsity Cup poses for us.”  The ‘Horns had a full schedule, even playing games on back-to-back games on two separate occasions.

“I feel like our schedule has us prepped and ready to go no matter who we play at this point.  We’ve tested ourselves against some of the best teams in the country, and we know we can play with anyone,” offered Junior Taylor Hayes.  Hayes is one of many offensive weapons for the Longhorns, who have shown the ability to pile the points on teams.

Captain Peter Hyams leads from the second row, consistently leading the team in tackles and meters gained.  Freshman flanker Reed Hogan has burst onto the scene, capping off a great SWC season with a hat trick in the Cup Final.  Sophomore Matt Young has shown incredible speed and a taste for the try line, scoring a try in nearly every match and a hat trick of his own against Wisconsin.  Freshman flyhalf Carson Youman has matured into a defensive stopper in the midfield, and fellow Frosh reserve back Steven Taylor has dominated with the boot, slotting all of his kicks against Wisconsin.

The Longhorns are eager for another chance to prove themselves on a national stage and to take on another powerful program in Notre Dame.  The captain in burnt orange is confident, saying, “We’ve been looking forward to testing ourselves in this tournament all year, and we’re working hard to get physically and mentally prepared for it.  Obviously, it’s going to be a really tough challenge playing against one of the best teams in the country, but we’re confident and we’re ready to show people that we’ve got what it takes to compete on this stage.”

The Longhorns battle the Fighting Irish at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the University of Notre Dame Rugby Pitch just west of the Hammes Bookstore on campus.  Go to http://rugby.nd.edu/about/directions/ for directions to the pitch.