Illinois Wesleyan's football team adopted a mantra of "Anything's possible" during this championship season. It was the Titans' way of placing no limits on what they could achieve.
Saturday, Mother Nature provided her own twist. She threw rain, wind, sleet and snow at Tucci Stadium during an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game against Case Western Reserve.
She created an atmosphere in which anything could happen. Here's some of what did during Case Western's 28-0 victory:
• A first-quarter punt by Case Western's Quinn Saluan was met with such meteorological wrath it traveled just beyond the line of scrimmage, hit the soggy turf and bounced back in Saluan's direction.
He wound up downing his own punt for a loss of two yards. You don't see that every day ... perhaps only on this one.
• Just prior to Saluan's punt, Spartans' quarterback Rob Cuda dropped a shotgun snap, scooped it up, lost and regained his grip on the wet ball twice while looking to pass and ultimately threw it away.
• At halftime, rain and sleet turned to snow. Wilder Field's artificial turf went from green to white in a blink. Yard lines were indistinguishable.
So as the teams returned from the locker room to find a winter wonderland, there was Dennis Martel, IWU's longtime baseball coach, among several Titan types on the business end of a snow shovel.
• By "anything," let's include the Twin Cities version of Lake Effect Snow. For years we've had Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake, but never anything like this.
Case Western is from Cleveland. The Spartans know about such things. So we asked head coach Greg Debeljak. Was this Lake Effect Snow?
"It felt like it," he said.
There you go.
• Tony Robbins, IWU's veteran equipment manager, began the game on the IWU sideline in his trademark tan shorts and a yellow raincoat. He returned for the second half in long pants and a winter coat.
• Even this: A running back from Orange, Calif., playing the starring role on a wet, windy, snowy Midwest day that challenged the heartiest of the locals.
Aaron Aguilar, a 5-foot-6, 182-pounder, ran for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He arrived in Bloomington with nine carries for 48 yards all season.
Aguilar ran like it was dry and 75 degrees. Everyone else seemed to be on an ice rink.
"Yeah, born and raised in California," he said proudly afterward. "I don't know ... I think I got some experience of playing in the rain on bad grass fields back home. But it was still nothing like this. It was definitely a change of pace."
It was a disappointing end for IWU, which finished 9-2 after sharing the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title.
Titan coach Norm Eash accurately pointed out there were some "freakish type" plays because of the weather. He also was dead on when he said, "The conditions were the same for us as they were for them."
That is ...
"No excuses," Eash said.
Jordan Hassan offered none either. The Titans' senior linebacker played sparingly for three long years before earning CCIW Defensive Player of the Year honors this season.
"I'd do it all again," an emotional Hassan said. "We were never at each other's throats (Saturday), which is why ... it was great playing with these guys.
"Even with five minutes left and we were down 21-0, there was never a sense that everyone's not doing their job for the team. We're 11 guys who want to play defense together. It was awesome."
Hassan and others will take that away from what Eash termed "a special season." They took the field Saturday believing "Anything's possible."
They were right.