PULLMAN – When either Andrew Furney or Alex Garoutte puts his foot into the football Saturday night at around 7:40, it might be an historic occasion.
There is a possibility it will be the coldest non-Apple Cup in Washington State history. Though that history only reaches as far back as 1982, when the Cougar athletic department began keeping records.
The forecast for Saturday night in Pullman, when the Cougars will host Arizona State, is for temperatures in the low 30s and an 80 percent chance of snow.
Going into Saturday night’s game, the coldest it’s ever been for a non-Apple Cup kickoff in Pullman since ‘82 was the 34 degrees recorded Nov. 14, 2009 against UCLA. That game, however, began at 2 p.m., so by the end it was well below freezing. The Cougars lost, 43-7.
Saturday night’s contest will be the latest kickoff for a November home game as well, with the only the 2005 game against Oregon on Nov. 12 – which kicked at 7:23 p.m. – ever slated to start after 4:30. It was 36 degrees the night the Ducks came to town. The Cougars lost, 34-31.
After having practiced the past couple weeks in temperatures dipping into the 30s, the Cougar players don’t believe the cold will make a difference for them. For their opponents from Tempe – where it was 76 degrees Thursday – it may be another story.
“I’m not even ready for that,” said ASU defensive tackle Bo Moos this week, laughing at the thought. “I know it’s going to be freezing. I wonder if a lot of these guys really understand how cold it will be.”
Moos, whose father Bill is WSU’s athletic director, has experienced the Inland Northwest at its seasonal best, having spent Christmas breaks with his family near Freeman. One year, he said, the family SUV got stuck in the snow and they had to trudge back to the ranch house.
“I felt like I was in ‘Doctor Zhivago,’” he said.
Washington State wide receiver Bobby Ratliff grew up in Etiwanda, Calif., and didn’t experience cold weather until his freshman season in Pullman. He knows what the Sun Devils are in for.
“They are not going to like this at all,” he said. “I remember my first winter was not fun. Walking to class, practice in the snow. It wasn’t fun at all.”
As could be expected, neither coach feels as if the weather will have an affect, though Dennis Erickson was the Cougar coach when they defeated Washington, 32-31 in 1988 in a game played in snow flurries and a temperature of 35 at game time.
“It’s just football,” he said. “You’ve got to play whatever it is. Obviously, it’s probably going to be a little bit nippy, compared to what it is down here. We’ve just got to go play in it.
“There’s no way to disguise it. There’s no way to tell your players it’s not going to be cold. They just have to realize the elements their going to play in.”
His counterpart at WSU, Paul Wulff, played in that ‘88 game and he sees the weather as irrelevant, though he would love to have it as cold as possible.
“Whatever is going to affect them the most,” he said. “Regardless of the weather conditions, we’re going to have to play a good football game.”
Maybe the coaches are right. The coldest temperature ever for a WSU home game? The 2000 Apple Cup. It was 29 degrees at kickoff. The Cougars lost, 51-3.