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Dr. Saturday

Neither rain nor hurricane-force winds stopped Virginia Union from playing St. Augustine’s

Jim Weber
Dr. Saturday

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As it turns out, holding a football game in the middle of a hurricane is as bad an idea as it sounds.

Division II Virginia Union (alma mater of NBA star Ben Wallace) opened its season Saturday against Raleigh, N.C.-based St. Augustine's College, despite the wrath of Hurricane Irene bearing down on Richmond, Va. About 80 brave souls were in attendance, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which described the wind as "gust[ing] violently from north to south, shaking the bleachers and whistling across the field." The rain fell sideways, and "felt like pushpins against the skin." Both schools had to petition the NCAA to allow the game to go on, and billed it as "the only game in town" on an afternoon that saw the rest of the Eastern Seaboard ducking for cover.

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"We knew there'd be rain," Virginia Union coach Michael Bailey told the Times-Dispatch. "But you don't stop football for rain. You stop it for lightning and tornadoes."

Um, what about hurricanes?

The result wasn't pretty. Quarterbacks Cheston Hickman and Joaquin Green combined to complete just 4-of-15 passes. Virginia Union scored the game's first touchdown by pouncing on a fumble in the end zone, after the ball was blown away from St. Augustine's punter when he dropped it to kick it. Virginia Union added a 5-yard touchdown run from Jerell Washington, who racked up 150 yards on 38 carries, and ultimately prevailed, 12-0.

"If it was 90 degrees and sunny, we would've gone with [Washington]," Bailey said. "We're going to run the ball. We're going to run it every week."

After the game, St. Augustine's players showered and changed in a locker room in which ceiling tiles had collapsed and water was puddling on the floor. The high winds also forced not one but two punts for negative yardage, traveling minus-1 and minus-9 yards, respectively. Per the Dispatch, the first punt of the game "went up, then stopped as if it had hit a wall and plunged straight down." After that, you'd think they would have decided to go ahead and go for it on fourth down the rest of the afternoon. But some habits just die hard.

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Photos via the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Jim Weber is the founder of LostLettermen.com, a historical college football and men's basketball site that links the sport's past to the present. This post originally appeared there.

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