Pulu Bloomfield woke up early Saturday morning and stepped outside. The sun was warm, he said, just like his son liked it.
"It was a beautiful day," the father of the late Sacramento State defensive lineman John Bloomfield said. "It felt good. And after that I never had a doubt that the kids would win."
John Bloomfield died a week ago today after more than a month in a coma from respiratory complications after undergoing treatment for a deteriorating lung. His Hornets teammates honored him with stickers on the back of their helmets with his initials "JB" and green rubber wristbands that said "Forever Family" and then handed No. 11 Cal Poly its first loss of the season, 35-29, at Hornet Stadium. Cal Poly falls to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big Sky Conference.
The win for the Hornets (6-3, 4-2) sets up another huge game next weekend at home against the Montana State Bobcats. With a win, the Hornets would put themselves in position to be selected for the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. It would be the first playoff game for the Hornets since 1988.
None of the current Hornets were alive back then, so any talk of the playoffs is premature, they said. There's just no sense of history. They are forging their own.
After a week of dealing with the loss of Bloomfield, Sac State opened the game with two fumbles that led to 10 quick points. On the first, former Granite Bay High player Nico Molino dislodged the ball from Hornets receiver T.J. Knowles with a hard hit, and two plays later the Mustangs scored.
Knowles went over to the sidelines where Pulu Bloomfield was standing and apologized.
"I told him not to worry, that his moment was going to come," said Bloomfield, who accompanied the Sac State captains to midfield for the coin toss.
Knowles' moment came when he caught a three-yard score from Garrett Safron with 25 seconds left in the first half to give the Hornets a 28-17 lead.
Safron had an impressive game, throwing for 303 yards and setting career highs for completions (31), attempts (38) and touchdowns with four. Two of those went to Morris Norrise, including what turned into the game winner, a 32-yard strike with a defender draped all over Norrise.
"We knew we could find some holes (in the Cal Poly defense)," Safron said. "We had a good game plan. We were beating up their defense."
Norrise, a junior, had seven catches for 97 yards to become the second-leading Hornet receiver in school history with 122. Fred Amey is the all-time leader with 248.
Hornets linebacker Todd Davis led the defense with 14 tackles and had a part in a key sack late in the game. He said he felt John Bloomfield's presence all night.
"I would always key off John," Davis said. "We played on the same side and called each other 'boundary brothers.' (Tonight) was something special."
The news of Bloomfield's death reached across the country to Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Sac State and Holy Cross have never played each other, but in 1969 a hepatitis-A outbreak forced the cancellation of the season as the Crusaders players and coaches were quarantined.
Sac State heard the news and dedicated the season to a team of players they had never met and wore Crusaders jerseys in their last home game. Saturday, in a loss to Fordham University, the Crusaders returned the gesture and wore green stickers on the back of their helmets with Bloomfield's No. 43 in white.
Hornets head coach Marshall Sperbeck hugged Pulu Bloomfield on the field immediately after the victory.
"I think JB is always with us," Sperbeck said. "He made such an impact on all of us."
Editor's note: This story was changed Oct. 30 to correct the circumstances of John Bloomfield's death.