You can call it bad luck for San Diego State that torrential rainstorms just happened to hit as the school’s first bowl appearance in 12 years arrived.

Raise your hand if you thought staying home in San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl would be a good thing during late-December.

Qualcomm Stadium had more water in it than nearby Lake Murray 24 hours before game time and officials were scrambling to get the playing surface in reasonable shape prior to Thursday’s kickoff between the Aztecs and Navy.

According to published reports, approximately 1.5 million gallons of muddy water was removed from the venue overnight. That sounds like some kind of chore. Hope the maintenance men and women received overtime pay.

Sure, playing in poor conditions is part of being a football player and countless teams have played in much worse conditions. Next time you see Dan Fouts, ask him about the frostbite from the “Ice Bowl,” the Jan. 1981 playoff in which the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals played in minus-59 wind chill.

But this is sunny San Diego and the hometown Poinsettia Bowl rates as a huge opportunity for San Diego State to show its program is on the rise. Enthusiasm for the Poinsettia Bowl was rampant in San Diego County, making the contest the second-most anticipated bowl game in Aztecs’ history behind the 1986 Holiday Bowl – a game San Diego State lost to Iowa on a last-second field goal.

The concern is that sloppy field conditions go much better with Navy’s run-based attack than the Aztecs’ aerial circus.

Navy runs the triple-option offense behind stellar option quarterback Ricky Dobbs and runs it superbly. The Midshipmen average a tick under 289 rushing yards per game, fifth best in the nation. Navy will do whatever it can to use the conditions to its advantage under top-notch coach Ken Niumatalolo.

San Diego State relies on the pitch-and-catch trio of quarterback Ryan Lindley and 1,000-yard receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. Freshman running back Ronnie Hillman has had a sensational debut campaign with 1,304 yards.

Basically, Brady Hoke’s Aztecs need a high-scoring affair to beat Navy. If field conditions render the Poinsettia Bowl into a 17-14 contest or any score in which the two teams combine for under 40 points, it won’t be San Diego State that leaves the field victoriously.

Ironically, San Diego State was served with a tough weather development the last time it played in a bowl game. The winds were so heavy during the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl that the Aztecs and North Carolina could only throw the ball effectively while headed in one direction.

San Diego State lost that game, leaving many players and fans to bemoan the conditions and what might have occurred if the weather had been better.

Aztecs’ fans now hope the same thing doesn’t happen again a dozen years later.


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