1. Overcoming adversity pays dividends.
Miserable doesn’t begin to describe the game’s conditions. SDSU head coach Rocky Long and offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said they had never seen anything like it in coaching careers that go back four decades.
The driving rain and high winds made field conditions nearly impossible up until an 88-minute lightning delay interrupted play.
“Thank god we had the lightning,” SDSU defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said. “We got some heavenly intervention.”
It’s up for debate whether the Aztecs would have come back if not for the lightning delay.
“We tried to throw a few times (before the delay), and it was a joke,” Horton said. “I was very disappointed. We were very tentative and I thought we let the elements get to us. We were kind of half-stepping all the way through it.”
Horton and Gonzales both chose the same term to describe the conditions — “water boarding.”
“That was kind of the torture that was going on, as hard as the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down,” Horton said.
Said Gonzales: “The water was like a sheet coming right in your face. The guys were having a hard time communicating with each other because the water was so loud on the helmets.
“Those are all just excuses, though, because when it comes down to it, both teams have to play in the same conditions.”
The experience will be something for the Aztecs to draw on the remainder of the season (and beyond).
Is there any situation they will encounter that could be any more difficult/challenging/bizarre/surreal?
The answer is no.
2. SDSU finds way to win when playing at less than its best.
SDSU made several mistakes against Air Force, but still found a way to win.
Sometimes it was through good fortune, as when running back Rashaad Penny fumbled the ball away in the first quarter but the Aztecs retained possession because of a holding penalty on the Falcons.
There was an uncharacteristic missed of a 39-yard field goal by SDSU’s John Baron II, who had set a Mountain West record earlier in the season during a streak in which he had made 25 in a row from inside 50 yards.
There was the ball quarterback Christian Chapman fumbled away inside the Air Force 10-yard line during the third quarter.
There was the punt Brandon Heicklen had blocked at the start of the fourth quarter that led to an Air Force touchdown.
Longtime SDSU fans have witnessed similar scenes through the years and come to expect the worst. They have watched this team rise to the occasion under such circumstances.
“If we can put a full game together, this can be a great football team,” Gonzales said. “We’ve got a bunch of really talented kids that believe in themselves, and they’re finding ways to win.”
Added Horton: “That’s something you can really build on. To maybe not play your best but still find a way to win the football game says a lot about the character of your kids.”
3. You don’t fool with Mother Nature.
The motto associated with mailmen through the years — “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — could also be applied to die-hard football fans.
Notice there’s nothing in there about lightning. The Falcons feature lightning bolts on their helmets, but that’s as far as it goes.
The swift departure before the end of the first quarter by the 27,575 fans — which included a couple of thousand Air Force cadets — who came to the game was pretty much unprecedented.
It resembled something out of a disaster movie, although without the accompanying chaos. This was an orderly, if not organized, evacuation.
Sitting in a warm car, grounded with rubber tires, made a lot more sense than sitting on metal bleachers in the rain with a lightning storm approaching.
So much for home field advantage.
“It was like a scrimmage environment after (the game resumed),” Gonzales said. “Even the cadets didn’t come back, which that surprised me. There was maybe 35 people in the stands.
“It helped with communication. We could yell to the guys on the other side of the field and they could hear us.”
Stanford’s Bryce Love rushed for 263 yards in the Cardinal’s 58-34 win over UCLA, claiming the national rushing lead from SDSU running back Rashaad Penny. Love now has 787 yards, averaging 197 yards a game. Penny, who rushed for 128 yards against Air Force, is second with 716 yards (179 yards/game).
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