Game of the Week – BUCS 15/16 Week 10: Derby @ Durham

Game of the Week – BUCS American Football 2015/16 Week Ten

 

Derby Braves @ Durham Saints

Before the season got underway, many would have written this game off as a one-sided affair as title-chasers Durham brush aside the relegation dodging Braves.

However, here we are with the majority of the season spent and the Braves currently sat in the number two spot in the division! While the title is likely out of their reach, the Braves also have little fear of risking a return to Division One football and a win against Durham this weekend could see them cement their place as true Premiership contenders.

The Braves have shown huge development through the offseason, both on and off the field.
The Braves have shown huge development through the offseason, both on and off the field.

Who are they?

Of course, the Saints will surely have something to say about all this. Last year’s Premiership North champions are feeling pretty sore about their 2-2 record at present, but with these two losses coming against the reigning National Champions, Head Coach Jonathon Rooney still firmly believes the Saints are title contenders and each every remaining game is very winnable.

The Saints’ passing game was firing on all cylinders going into the Christmas break, and having not taken the field since week six we can be sure that the Saints will be fresh… but will they also be rusty and Turkey-laden?

The Braves enter the match up having completed their sweep of the top sports Uni in the country – a single touchdown last week enough to give them the double over Loughborough with two-point and four-point victories. Under the guidance of new Head Coach Noel Cassar the Braves’ confidence will be riding high coming into this game, but it’s likely they’ll need more than a single score to come out victors this weekend!

Some irascible British American Football news outlets (Eds. *ahem*) have been touting this fixture as the ‘All-American Bowl’ thanks to the presence of across-the-pond imports on both team’s rosters, but truth be told this would do both programmes a disservice. In truth both programmes, while admittedly each experiencing benefits from the introduction of cross-Atlantic scholars, are both great exemplars of how to advance a University BUCSball programme – especially for a small and ill-funded University such as Derby… And still have the vast majority of their talented rosters made up of homegrown talent!

Josh Tucker heads up the Saints' running game. Image courtesy of James Stancombe - https://www.flickr.com/photos/stancs
Josh Tucker heads up the Saints’ running game.
Image courtesy of James Stancombe – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stancs

When last they met…

Coming into their last matchup having run the national champs close in week one – a missed field goal the only thing that stood between the Braves and the biggest upset of the season in its very first week – and then picking up back-to-back wins over Lugbug and Hallam, the Braves looked to be the on form team as they squared off against the Saints in week six.

Indeed, the Braves appeared to have Durhams’ number during the first half going into the break with a 13-9 lead. However, the Saints’ aerial attack found its groove in the third and fourth quarters and opened up a lead the Braves were unable to chase down, finishing Derby 20 – 31 Durham.

 

What to watch out for:

  • Derby graduated a good chunk of their starters last year. As such, it’s hugely impressive how well this team has knitted together this year. With many of their returning players having spent the summer playing senior ball both in the UK and abroad, it’s clear the Braves are bringing a much-enhanced roster to the gridiron this year.
  • Import QB Justin La Roda (Ouse Valley Eagles) gives the Braves a versatile threat under centre, and has been particularly dangerous when connecting with third year wideout Jarrad Gabbidon, the pair hooking up for two TDs in Derby’s historic first ever win over Loughborough in week three.
  • However the top gun aerial attack in this game will surely be Durham’s – quarterback Brad Jones has put up 1400yds and 13TDs through only four games so far this year, with veteran wide receivers Simon Carey and Jake Lawrence each racking up 35+ catches, 500+ yards and five touchdowns a piece.
  • Physical downhill runner Josh Tucker heads up a strong supporting run game, and Derby’s O-line will need to take care against the Saints’ dangerous front six that include true-rookie standout Matt Bell.
  • Expect a great showcase of top level BUCSball at this match up and get yourselves over to Durham if you’ve got the time to spare on Sunday.

 

Image courtesy of James Stancombe - https://www.flickr.com/photos/stancs
Image courtesy of James Stancombe – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stancs

What do they have to say about one another?

 

Braves HC, Noel Cassar:

“Durham are littered with overseas talent and experience. With a budget to die for, they execute well and are good ball players. We are under no illusion how difficult the return will be. Long road trip, grass, no posts, it’s going to be a tough one.”

 

Saints HC, Jonathon Rooney:

“Well it is another back to back game so we know our opponents well. Winning on the road always helps as they face the long drive now knowing they need to up their game. I can guarantee that we got better over the break, lets see what improvements they have made.”

 

And what do we think?

Expect each half of this game to tell a different story as the Braves may well come into the game with more momentum following their victory last week, however it’s likely Durham’s depth and extra preparation time will tell as the game goes on.

Derby’s D will need to play some shutdown coverage to stop the Saints’ aerial attack simply outpacing them… We’re expecting something not dissimilar to these two teams’ last meeting where Durham pull away in the second…

That said, considering how far off the pace we were last week with our Pompey/Burners pick? Who knows! Chrimbo does funny things to teams.

 

Braves 18 – 28 Saints

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1