Poinsettia to go on despite flooding
No raining on Navy, Aztecs' parade at Qualcomm Stadium
The Associated Press
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 told The Associated Press on 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 [Thursday 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.''
Navy (9-3) vs San Diego St. (8-4), 8 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN
- Series Record: San Diego State leads, 2-0.
- Last Meeting: 1997 -- San Diego St. 45, Navy 31
What's at Stake
San Diego State makes its first bowl appearance since a losing effort in the Las Vegas Bowl in 1998. SDSU has turned it around under second-year head coach Brady Hoke, whose no-nonsense approach has led to the school's first winning season since 1998. Navy will try to follow up on its big win against Army. If Navy wins, the senior class will be the first in school history to win 10 games in consecutive seasons.
Navy QB Ricky Dobbs vs. San Diego State defense. Despite four turnovers, Dobbs led the Midshipmen to a 31-17 win against Army. For the season, Dobbs has rushed for 860 yards and 13 touchdowns, and passed for 1,380 yards and 12 TDs.
Players to watch
Navy -- Fullback Alexander Teich. Hoke has said that stopping the fullback is the key to stopping an option attack. Teich has run for 825 yards and five touchdowns this season. He's part of an offense that ranks fifth in the country in rushing (288.92) and 11th in pass efficiency (157.93).
San Diego St. -- Freshman RB Ronnie Hillman. Hillman was named Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. He broke the league's freshman single-season rushing record with 1,304 yards on 234 carries, scoring 14 touchdowns. He ranks first in the conference, 14th nationally and first among freshmen in FBS in yards rushing per game (108.7) and is the only player in the league to average more than 100 yards on the ground.
Facts & Figures
Bowl executive director Bruce Binkowski said the game will go on despite the heavy rain that has flooded part of the field at Qualcomm Stadium. "They're going to make it work,'' Binkowski told the AP. ... This is Navy's third trip to the Poinsettia Bowl. The Midshipmen beat Colorado State, 51-30, in the inaugural game in 2005, and lost to Utah, 35-32, in 2007. ... San Diego State's last bowl victory was 28-7 against Boston University in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl.