The stands were rocking for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association opener between St. Augustine's College (NC) and Virginia Union University—but it wasn't the 100 brave souls that attended the game that caused the bleachers to move. It was the wind.
Eric Kolenich from the The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch described the scene. “The wind gusted violently from north to south, shaking the bleachers and whistling across the field. The sideways rain felt like pushpins against the skin. The American flag flapped mercilessly from side to side and looked as if it would rip from its pole.”
It was probably one of the more bizarre decisions; a season-opening football game was not canceled due to Hurricane Irene. Instead, the game was played in driving rain, tropical storm-strength winds, and overall dangerous conditions. Funny enough, Virginia Union originally had to petition the NCAA to even hold the game. A new NCAA rule prohibits football games to take place prior to the Thursday before the first Saturday of the season.
Virginia Union head coach Michael Bailey summed it up. “We knew there'd be rain, but you don't stop football for rain.”
In Bailey's opinion, you only stop a game for “lightning and tornadoes.” But apparently not hurricanes. “This wasn't the first time we've played in rain,” Bailey quipped. Maybe not, but it's probably the first hurricane. Bailey also serves as VUU's athletic director, and the decision to play the game was made jointly with VUU's president, Claude Perkins.
So how did the two teams fare?
By all accounts, not well. There were only five completed passes in the game, There were a combined 12 first downs. A combined 31 yards passing. A grand total of 240 yards of offense. A combined 10 fumbles. Of the nine punts attempted in the game, the average was less than 17 yards per punt (and two punts went for minus yardage). There were no punt returns. Both teams were a combined 3-for-25 on third downs, and when they decided punting wasn't a viable option, they moved to fourth down conversions, on which they were a combined 1-for-13. In the end, Virginia Union won, 12-0, on two touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Virginia Union didn't even attempt to kick the PATs. Both two-point tries were failures.
When the game was over, the visitors from St. Augustine's left for the showers, only to find collapsed ceiling tiles and water pooling on the floor.
It's a game no one who was there will likely ever forget, but probably for all of the wrong reasons.
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