Sports


Scramble for dry practice sites for Poinsettia Bowl

SAN DIEGO – Navy might want to bring a dry dock.

San Diego State could pitch in with some bilge pumps.

The teams are scheduled to play in the Poinsettia Bowl tonight 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 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 the Washington Huskies 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.



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