Each one of these pool play recap articles will highlight a particular matchup for each round.
Just to give a little bit of insight as to what happened this weekend, TD Brian Moore of Alabama had 3 fields taken away from him at the last minute, causing him to have to create a format where 23 teams had as many games as possible on only 9 fields. Because of this, he removed one round for each pool where:
- Seed 1 Played Seed 6
- Seed 2 Played Seed 5
- Seed 3 Played Seed 4
While this did remove the crucial 3 vs. 4 game, only one 5 (Tennessee-Chattanooga) seed finished in the top 3 of a pool, a feat that no 6 seed accomplished. With Moore having to make a quick game time decision, I think he made the right call.
On a more personal note, it seemed like my travel to and from Alabama was cursed, as I had a flight canceled each way. Since my trip from Charlotte, NC to Birmingham, AL had to wait until Friday morning, I ended up missing half of the first round, which started at 8:30 AM CST.
By the time I made it to the fields with my Chick-fil-A breakfast, Mississippi State Darkhorse was leading Tulane Aftershock 8-7. Despite the 15 MPH wind moving across the field, it appeared that this was an upwind-downwind game. Just as I looked down to get my pen and paper, Tulane tied the game up at 8s.
Darkhorse was playing the wind smart, as they employed a “Punt and D” strategy. Mississippi State’s Cody Smith dominated the stats as he got a big hand-block at the Tulane brick-mark and then an assist to the break-side as Darkhorse held 9-8. After an Aftershock answer, a Mississippi State short backhand dish got taken by the wind, leading to a quick Jon Schlosberg huck for the break and the 10-9 Tulane lead. On the following point, Aftershock’s pull sailed out of bounds, providing Darkhorse with a short field to work with. Typically behind the disc, 6’5” Erek Allen set up down field in the middle of the horizontal stack. With his defender backing him, Allen was able to earn the under with time to turn and send it deep uncontested. Even though the wind took the throw for a ride, Cody Smith was able to get up big for the 10-10 grab.
On this critical offensive point, Tulane would turn the disc over twice, giving Darkhorse the chance to retake the lead. Despite a first throw turnover after calling timeout, Mississippi State was able to convert on their second chance at a break, as Allen hit a bidding Tyler Davis on the breakside. 11-10 Mississippi State.
With the first horn blowing in the distance, a cap of 13 points was placed on the game. Mississippi State came down in a zone, giving way to another D and assist for Smith, this time hitting Allen on the force side. After another Aftershock turn, Darkhorse tried for the quick finish, putting up a floaty huck, but a single Tulane player, Harry Kingery, gave chase. With the sideline yelling “Brodie Smith!!!” as he set his feet, Kingery did his best impression and came down with the Sky D. Tulane marched down the field off the give and go play of Brandon Xuereb.At the goal line, Xureb snuck a back hand behind a face guarding defender to Greg Cousins in the corner of the endzone for the 12-11 score. The next Tulane pull was a high arching outside-in backhand that bladed well short of the end zone. As he tried to anticipate the bounce and stop the roll, Erek Allen misread the flight, and the disc struck his hands before hitting the ground. Picking it up just after the brick mark, Patrick Dougherty sent a beautiful shot to Schlosberg, tying the game to 12-12 and universe point!
With Aftershock coming down fired up on D, Allen felt the pressure and tried a floaty high release backhand up-field, which the Tulane defense ate up. The Darkhorse defense didn’t relent, and pressured the Aftershock offense into a bad decision. Now with possession, Darkhorse’s Robert Stroup sent it deep to Ryan Cross, who made an amazing toe line catch along the sideline short of the endzone. Immediately, Cross dished it to Erek Allen who would get the winning assist for the 13-12 Mississippi State victory.
Overall, both teams played some intense and physical ultimate, where everyone was willing to hit the ground. While the wind made the offensive play somewhat sloppy, this was about as exciting as you would want a 2 vs. 3 matchup to be.