PULLMAN – No one who saw it in person or on TV can forget the image.
Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe dropping back, standing tall, waiting, waiting, then flinging the pass a little off his back foot toward the end zone.
The ball flying through an endless stream of white dots, traveling over the Washington defense for an eternity, before settling into the hands of receiver Phillip Bobo, who cradles it and slides, halfway to Washtucna, finally settling in a snow bank with the touchdown catch.
It was the Snow Bowl.
It was ultimate moment in the penultimate game of the Cougars’ 9-3, Copper Bowl season.
And it occurred on Nov. 21, 1992.
Fast forward to 2010. There is, conservatively, 4 inches of snow on the ground here this morning. There is little chance it will melt away by Saturday.
Why is that important? That’s the day of the Apple Cup. Dec. 4. The latest it’s ever been played, the first time in the year’s final month and, more than likely thanks to Pac-12 expansion, also the last.
Since the end of World War II, Washington State has played one regular-season game in December – a 48-27 win over seventh-ranked UCLA on Pearl Harbor Day in 2002. And that was in Pasadena.
So, despite the Snow Bowl memory, a Christmas-like atmosphere in Pullman for football hasn’t been all that common. Heck, the average high even for Dec. 4 is 37 – the record is 56 – and the low is just 26. But the winter wonderland is welcome.
“I love the snow, man,” said junior receiver Jared Karstetter, who grew up in Spokane. “I hope it snows, I hope it’s a blizzard. I love to play in the snow. That’s what Pullman’s all about in December.”
The early forecast for Saturday’s Apple Cup, the 103rd game in the series between the state rivals, is for a high of 33 degrees, a low of 22 and a 30 percent chance of snow showers.
Contrast that to Seattle, which is forecast to be 45 and rainy.
Still no one, not WSU coach Paul Wulff, not Karstetter, thinks it will be that big an advantage – if you take them at their word.
“I don’t know if this is going to be any different for anyone,” Wulff said on the Pac-10 coaches’ conference call last week.
“It just adds an element to the game itself, not an advantage to either team,” Karstetter said.
As if the game needs any more elements.
WSU freshman receiver Marquess Wilson grew up in Central California, where it may get cold but rarely snows. In fact, he said he’s never seen it snow more than a trace.
And he’s never seen the intensity of the Apple Cup either.
Told elementary schools in the state hold Apple Cup week, where the kids either wear purple or crimson, he shook his head.
“That’s crazy,” he said, smiling.
Karstetter, who grew up in the craziness, knows Wilson is in for a shock.
“The older you get, you understand more and more what it means to the state and everyone around,” he said. “The older you get, the more the game means.
“But he’ll figure it out about 10 minutes before when it starts getting rolling up in Martin.”
Just after they have pushed the snow off the Martin Stadium turf.
By the way, the Snow Bowl? The Cougars defeated Washington, 42-23.
The low temperature that day was 32 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. A light rain fell after the game ended.
Did we say it was only Nov. 21?