Just 24 hours later, the Poinsettia Bowl between Navy and San Diego State kicked off on a crisp, dry field, with only a small lake left in the east parking lot.
"We saw all the pictures of this completely flooded stadium, and our mindset was we're going to make this work, we're going to get this field cleared and we're going to play this game," said Bruce Binkowski, the bowl game's executive director.
There were doubters, but the city of San Diego and Poinsettia Bowl staff swung into action.
More than 1.5 million gallons of water were pumped out overnight by a team from the Metropolitan Wastewater District that worked continuously through 5 a.m. Then they tackled the parking lot, scooping away the mud and debris left by the storm surge. Lastly came the street sweepers.
About 80 percent of the stadium's parking spots are clean and dry. The other 20% are covered in water and mud, which became a fun place for kids to ride bikes, while tailgaters reflect on the water-logged images they saw on TV.
"I just said there's no way that it can be ready for tomorrow," said Linda Grasser, a Navy fan from Seattle. "I thought it would be the next day, but they must've worked all night long -- and good for them. We thank you."
"I had confidence that the game would take place," said Eric Barge, a San Diego State fan. "I wasn't so sure about the parking lot, so I'm pleasantly surprised."
Both teams took to the field on time.
The Poinsettia Bowl will pick up the tab for the stadium clean up, which could reach tens of thousands of dollars.
They should have no problem paying, since both teams are a big draw. They sold nearly 20,000 more tickets than usual.