Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Updated: December 23, 12:12 PM ET
Poinsettia Bowl will go on as scheduled
SAN DIEGO -- Navy might want to bring a dry dock. San Diego State could pitch in with some bilge pumps.
The two teams are scheduled to play in the Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium, where several days of heavy rain left the field under several inches of water just more than 24 hours before kickoff.
A seal or two might show up, and not necessarily from the elite Navy unit based in Coronado.
"We have every intention of kicking off at 5:06 p.m.," executive director Bruce Binkowski said Wednesday. "The stadium grounds crew work will work round the clock to make sure they get in the game."
On Wednesday afternoon, the tarp covering the field looked more like a pool cover. The field appeared to be under perhaps 10 inches or more of muddy water.
A large portion of the parking lot flooded as well, which could cause problems for the expected crowd of 51,000. The parking lot is next to the San Diego River, which overflows every time it rains hard.
It rained so hard Tuesday that Navy and SDSU practiced in hotel ballrooms. SDSU held its Wednesday walkthrough on campus while Navy found a nearby high school with a turf field.
The soaking wet conditions left coaches Ken Niumatalolo of Navy and Brady Hoke of San Diego State vowing to splash through the mud, if that's what it takes.
"Sometimes college football has become big business but these are young men that grew up playing football in the backyard when it was raining," Niumatalolo said. "We're excited to strap it on anytime. For our seniors, this is going to be the last time for them to do this.
"Plus we've been practicing on a ballroom carpet, so I think the carryover is going to be minimal."
Hoke agreed, especially since the Aztecs are playing in their first bowl since 1998.
"That's part of football and part of what we've all grown up and played in that weather and had fun in that weather," Hoke said. "We plan to have fun again tomorrow night."
Soggy or not, it should be a better matchup than the longer-established Holiday Bowl, which will offer up a rematch between Washington and Nebraska in one week.
Navy (9-3) is coming off a 31-17 win against Army. SDSU (8-4) has enjoyed a turnaround under Hoke, the second-year coach who has instilled a sense of toughness that didn't exist under previous coaches Chuck Long and Tom Craft.
Hoke said practicing inside didn't hurt the Aztecs' preparation for Navy's triple option, which is led by quarterback Ricky Dobbs.
"We had a nice big ballroom. I think the Midway may be able to fit in it, as big as that place was," Hoke said, referring to an aircraft carrier that's now a floating museum on San Diego Bay.
"From a defensive perspective, our timing as far as execution of what we want to do against the triple, the veer, the counter, the speed option, the toss and all that stuff, getting the ball outside," Hoke added. "I think we have a really good opportunity and we got a lot done. From an offensive perspective, the ballroom is so big that we were throwing the ball and doing everything that we normally would do."
The Aztecs will counter with an offense led by running back Ronnie Hillman, the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year, and quarterback Ryan Lindley. Hillman set the MWC freshman single-season record with 1,304 yards, with 14 touchdowns. Lindley has thrown for 3,554 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Niumatalolo said that coming off the Army game, "you put on the tape and the euphoria of winning that game quickly leaves as you see Hillman, Ryan Lindley throwing the football, the defense running around."
This will be Navy's third Poinsettia Bowl appearance. It beat Colorado State 51-30 in the inaugural game in 2005 and lost to Utah 35-32 in 2007.