JONESBORO, AR (RugbyMag.com) - A depleted Arkansas State, without the services of All-Americans Nardus Wessels, Roland Evans and David Caswell, as well as standout center Dean Gericke, ran over Texas A&M to the tune of 52-17 in Jonesboro, Ark. Saturday.
"We've been doing that for a couple games now, and it's really caused some young guys to step up. I really think our system and our plan is performing," said Arkansas State coach Matt Huckaby. "It's kind of been a silver lining to the injury cloud."
The Red Wolf who perhaps took the biggest step forward Saturday was Zac Mizell, slotting in at No. 13 for Gericke.
"Zac was a stud. I asked him to play out of position, which we've essentially been doing all year, but he's such a tremendous back that he's kind of one of those players that he can play anywhere from 1-15 and he makes him an impact," said Huckaby.
"He got flat a couple times, but after he kind of figured out to hold his depth at 13, he showed a lot of leadership there and made some things happen. A&M did a good job of coming up flat, so he stuck a couple little grubbers behind them. He smartly ran one down for a try, and that kind of got them to watch for the kick and he opened up the pattern again by making some smart passes, and I thought that was a brilliant adjustment."
Another one of Mizell's grubbers was recovered by fullback Danie Swanepoel for a try.
The Red Wolves took the lead early and never relinquished it, leading 31-3 at halftime and eventually 45-3. Before Arkansas State's final try, the Aggies pumped in a pair of converted tries.
Leading all scorers on the day was Arkansas State flyhalf Patrick Sullivan, who ran in two tries, slotted a penalty and went a perfect seven-for-seven on conversions.
"They're very good at taking advantage of mistakes and turnovers, and they're clinical as far as turning those turnovers into points," said Texas A&M coach Craig Coates of the Red Wolves, who the Aggies hadn't played in three years.
"They're a very different team now than the last time we played them. They play with much faster pace on the ball and are better organized and have more speed than they used to. They're very good."
ASU won the Mid-South Conference outright and clinched a home playoff game. The Red Wolves will host Saint Mary's May 7th in the College Premier Division Quarterfinals.