Marcus Tupuola has been named Goff Rugby Report’s DIAA MVP Back for the fall of 2016.
The Notre Dame College fullback was a critical piece of an excellent Falcons season, during which NDC went 11-0 against intercollegiate competition and won the DIAA fall championship.
Throughout this fall there were some very impressive performances by backs in DIAA teams. This was a hugely competitive award to give, and Tupuola gets it for the following reasons:
1. His team was a winner - he was (with apologies to Zach Forro and Cory Graham) the best back on the best DIAA team;
2. Tupuola played an integral part, sharing time (during very game mind you) at fullback and flyhalf;
3. His ability to break through lines and score or create tries out of virtually nothing was integral to NDC’s success. If you weren’t spending time trying to stop him, he burned you, and if you were, someone else burned you.
4. His kicking game. Too often observers dismiss the kicking game - they might say it’s important but don’t give credit to players who are good at it. Tupuola’s ability to kick from the hand as a fullback and flyhalf is an added weapon.
This was all on display in the DIAA final against Bowling Green. On a wet, cold December 4 morning, Notre Dame College wasn’t necessarily going to be able to play their wide open game in those conditions. Sure, they tried. Both teams tried. But at some point the day was going to be about field position, and that’s where Tupuola made a massive contribution, pinning Bowling Green back in their 22 repeatedly. His control of his boot is impressive.
And then, finally, one more thing about the Notre Dame College back. In that DIAA fall final, Graham - certainly a candidate for this award - was sin-binned. Tupuola stepped in at flyhalf and still kept an eye on fullback. The result was that NDC extended their lead while shorthanded.
So that’s our pick - a talented athlete, who also knows how to play the game.
Marcus Tupuola is a Mathematics and Modern Psychology major, and as in his academic life, rugby life can sometimes be about the numbers, and sometimes be about the emotion.
The emotion is sometimes how you take that extra step. Tupuola, Goff Rugby Report’s Backs MVP for DIAA teams in Fall of 2016, said that it was a difficult fall of 2015 that spurred his Falcons on to bigger things.
“Last fall opened our eyes to where we could go,” said Tupuola, whose NDC team went 7-3 last fall with losses to Davenport, St. Bonaventure, and Navy. “We knew the teams we were playing were good. But the losses helped us. We lost some close games, and it helped us learn to finish games off.”
And that translated into some numbers. Last fall they were 7-3, and in the spring the Falcons rolled through the playoffs before losing a close final to UC Davis. Then this fall NDC was 11-0 against collegiate opposition. Direct comparisons? How about the 2015 losses to Davenport (38-3), Navy (32-17), and St. Bonaventure (34-29), which, in 2016 became wins (Davenport 26-24), Navy (27-8), and St. Bonaventure (49-7). So the numbers went from 0-3 against those three teams (points for 49, against 104) to 3-0 (pf 102, pa 39).
“It’s like we all came together,” said Tupuola. “Everyone’s got good skills, but we also created a bond with each other. This was not overnight. We’ve been working on it since freshman year.”
For Tupuola, it was also a great fall. The Carson, Calif. native, who started playing rugby with the South Bay Spartans when he was 13, continues to try to get better.
Witness his kicking. Tupuola got the MVP award in part because of his kicking ability. It wasn’t always a strength.
“I used to be really horrible at kicking,” Tupuola told Goff Rugby Report. “It was a weakness. I still need to work on it, but not being good made me eager to conquer that part of my game. I practice with my wings. We’ll have some free time and I say to them, ‘let’s go kicking.’ You’ve got to do that extra work outside of practice.”
You’ll see the payoff in the numbers.