LAS VEGAS – An Arizona football player – name withheld to protect the guilty – couldn’t believe what he was seeing as he walked to a team bus after practice.
“It’s (expletive) snowing!” he said.
He said that with a fair amount of disgust, although one person’s frightful is another person’s delightful as most of the Wildcats’ reactions to the fluffy white stuff was more along the lines of “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”
“I liked it,” said senior free safety Nate Ness. “You know, my fingers were going numb, but I was having fun.”
The Wildcats didn’t expect to be in the middle of a winter wonderland Wednesday afternoon, but these are the fun things that can happen when you go to a bowl.
Seventy degrees and sunny would be nice, but who wants to do the same ol’ things?
The beauty of playing in the postseason is all the new experiences.
So, go ahead, let it snow on Arizona’s parade.
“We get a little snow every blue moon in Dallas,” senior receiver Mike Thomas said of his hometown area, “but I hadn’t practiced in snow ever.
Said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes: “The conditions were kind of nasty, but we practiced really well.”
The snow arrived as the team did for a noon practice at UNLV. By the end of practice, the wet stuff had mostly turned into an annoying slush, but the colder stuff was yet to come.
As the players showered and changed and headed to a big tent for a barbecue lunch, the snow came down harder, spreading a light blanket of white on the practice field. About a half-hour later, flurries had made it impossible to see the hotel high-rises and shimmering lights of the Strip from two blocks away.
“It feels like the Midwest,” said UA coach Mike Stoops, who offered some advice to UA fans who are coming up for Saturday’s game against BYU.
“They might have to bring their snowshoes and skis,” he joked.
OK, it won’t be that bad, but meteorologist John Adair of the National Weather Service did tell the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “This is a very rare snow event.”
It’s true. You don’t often see snow accumulate on the bosom of the replica of Lady Liberty outside the New York, New York Hotel.
“First time I ever saw this much snow in Vegas,” said freshman running back Keola Antolin, who lived here for the past 12 years.
The snow does show signs of stopping and it’s not expected to last beyond Thursday. But it will be cold and perhaps slick when the teams play at 6 p.m. Saturday night. There’s a chance the game could be played on tundra that is frozen.
“Looks like it will be a cool night,” Stoops said of the game, “so we should get used to it.”
As a practical matter, does that favor the guys from Provo, Utah?
“Can you believe this?” said BYU junior quarterback Max Hall, as snowflakes danced around his head after his team’s practice at Bishop Gorman High School.
“I’m sitting here in Las Vegas and it’s snowing right now. Unbelievable. I was planning on playing golf when I was here. At least we’re used to it. We’ve practiced and played in it before, so maybe that goes to our advantage.
“Being from Arizona,” added Hall, who grew up in Mesa, “I’m sure this is a shock for their guys.”
Well, it’s not a shock to UA assistant coach Dana Dimel, whose cold-weather résumé includes being the head coach at Wyoming from 1997 to 1999.
“I remember playing Air Force one time, and it was so cold, you couldn’t even feel your forehead,” he said. “I’m used to this stuff. This is nothing new at all.”
What his experience taught him is that it’s easier for the passing game in cold, wet weather. Advantage: both offenses.
“Sometimes you can throw the ball better in wetness than you can run it. That is one of the things people don’t understand,” Dimel said.
“When it gets to be a slippery field, the pass rushers have trouble rushing the passer, and the corners and safeties don’t know where they are going, while the receivers do.”
In any case, the snow continued to fall after practice. Arizona and BYU participated in a bowl function at New York, New York, where organizers had to move an outdoor pie-eating contest inside the hotel.
Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy greeted players and coaches with the phrase, “Welcome to Sunny Las Vegas.”
Sunny Las Vegas is for the postcards. Snowy Las Vegas is a much more memorable adventure.
“Is it going to warm up? No,” said sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is from upstate New York.
“Well, then this is what we got, and this is what we have to play in, so whatever.”
Since the Wildcats have no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Las Vegas’ worst winter storm in three decades dumped about 3 inches of snow Wednesday and grounded flights at McCarren International Airport, which doesn’t have proper snow removal or deicing equipment. Another 3 inches could fall overnight.
Snow is not expected after Thursday. But it will still be cold when BYU and UA kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday:
Thursday 42 31
Friday 42 34
Saturday 41 30
Sunday 44 35
Source: National Weather Service