SAN DIEGO — San Diego State University lost to the Naval Academy in Tuesday night’s 10th annual Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, with game executive director Bruce Binkowski expecting a crowd between 33,000-35,000 for the matchup of two 7-5 teams.
The final score: 17-16.
“We figured if we could do over 30,000, we’d be very pleased and budget-wise it would be good for us and we’re beyond that,” Binkowski said. “There’s a lot of interest for both of those teams.”
Navy is responsible for each of the Poinsettia Bowl’s three largest crowds — 48,049 for the 2010 game, which was also against San Diego State; 39,129 for the 2007 game against Utah; and 36,842 for the inaugural 2005 game against Colorado State.
The Poinsettia Bowl drew a record-low crowd of 23,408 for last year’s game between Northern Illinois and Utah State when it was played after Christmas for the only time in its history.
The key reason for the creation of the Poinsettia Bowl was to increase hotel occupancy in San Diego in the week before Christmas, customarily a period of below-average occupancy. This year’s increase “is probably not as good as previous years,” Binkowski said.
“We want to put together the best matchup possible,” Binkowski said. “What’s a better matchup than San Diego State and Navy in a Navy town? (When) we had the opportunity, we jumped at that matchup. We understand it would effect the hotels a little bit, but by the same token, it’s a great local event.”
The San Diego Bowl Game Association, which conducts the game, announced on Nov. 6, 2013, that Navy would play in the 2014 game if it won at least six games to become eligible to play in a bowl under NCAA rules. The Midshipmen won their sixth game Nov. 28, defeating South Alabama, 42-40, then defeated rival Army, 17-10, on Dec. 13.
The Mountain West Conference has supplied a team for the Poinsettia Bowl throughout its history, with the decision for the specific team made “in collaboration” between Poinsettia Bowl and conference officials, Binkowski said.
The Aztecs might not have received an invitation if they had lost to San Jose State in its final regular-season game Nov. 29, Binkowski said.
“Had they been 6-6, not 7-5, we might have gone in another direction,” Binkowski said. “We told San Diego State from the get-go that for us to consider you, it has to be at least seven wins.”
Pregame activities began at 6 p.m. with a “March On” of Naval Academy students, which will be followed by the “Parade of Wishes,” featuring children and families from Make-a-Wish San Diego.
The national anthem was sung by Katriz Trinidad, a 15-year-old from Chula Vista who was a contestant this fall on the NBC singing competition, “The Voice” and was eliminated in the knockout round.
As Trinidad sang, the Holiday Bowl Big Flag, which measures 100 by 50 yards and covers the entire field, was unfurled by 250 Marines.
The ESPN Football Power Index gives Navy a 60.3 percent chance of winning. The index ranks teams in the order in which they are most likely to beat an average Football Bowl Subdivision team on a neutral field. The Midshipmen are 64th among the 128 FBS teams and San Diego State 80th.
The Aztecs have won eight consecutive games against service academies and are 3-0 against Navy, with their most recent victory coming in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl.