Weather woes hit college football, stadiums cleared
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The first big weekend of the college football season was marred by weather problems across the country Saturday, with officials calling off games at Nebraska and Iowa State and delays hitting stadiums from the Air Force Academy in Colorado to the Southeast.
Iowa State’s home game against South Dakota State was canceled after a long delay because of severe storms in and around Ames, Iowa. And Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, which holds some 80,000 people, was evacuated because of a severe thunderstorm two hours after the Akron-Nebraska game went into a lightning delay. There was no immediate word on whether it would be rescheduled.
The Iowa State game was cancelled after a 2 hour, 23 minute delay. Lighting flashed throughout the delay and rain fell off and on. Fans gradually trickled out until only a few students remained. Iowa State had a 7-0 lead on Kyle Kempt’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Deshaunte Jones, but the two teams got in only 10 plays plus a punt before they left the field for good.
“At the end of the day, player safety is of the utmost importance,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said.
There were delays for games at Ohio State, Maryland, the Air Force Academy and the West Virginia-Tennessee game played in Charlotte, North Carolina. North Carolina A&T and East Carolina’s season-opening game in Greenville, North Carolina, was postponed until Sunday.
At Nebraska, storm clouds that built south of the stadium in the hours before the game did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for one of the most anticipated Cornhuskers openers in memory. The stadium was full more than a half-hour before kickoff, with many fans showing up in T-shirts celebrating the arrival of new coach and former Huskers quarterback Scott Frost.
NFL star and ex-Husker Ndamukong Suh and Omaha-born actress Gabrielle Union and her NBA star husband Dwyane Wade were among the celebrities in attendance. The buildup for the game reached a crescendo after an emotional team entrance to the Huskers’ traditional “Tunnel Walk.”
But right after the kickoff, a Nebraska athletics official ran onto the field to notify officials of lightning within an eight-mile radius of Memorial Stadium. Lightning in the area requires at least a half-hour delay.
Most fans remained in the stadium watching the Michigan-Notre Dame game on the big screens and dancing to music on the public-address system until a downpour an hour in prompted most to leave. An hour after that, a severe thunderstorm moved in, and fans were instructed to leave the stadium and take shelter in designated areas. The game was postponed indefinitely almost three hours after kickoff.
Because of a forecast calling for potential storms, officials decided against waiting out the weather. In 2011, Oklahoma State and Tulsa started a weather-delayed game at 12:16 a.m. and didn’t finish until 3:35 a.m. Sunday.
Nebraska and Akron have not ruled out making up the game.