No matter what the weather brings on Saturday night in Pullman, Washington, Cal coach Justin Wilcox says he and his team will embrace the moment.
“We’ve all watched the old NFL films of the games that are played in the mud and the snow, back when they actually played on grass. It’ll be a great opportunity to experience something like that,” Wilcox said.
“I don’t know when the last time somebody got to play in Pullman, mid-December.”
The Bears’ game at Washington State on Saturday -- Dec. 12 -- is the latest date in the calendar year the Cougars have played a home game.
The Cougs lost at home to Washington in the 2010 Apple Cup on Dec. 4, but that’s as deep into the month as they’ve played at Martin Stadium.
Way back in 1907, they played a Christmas Day game at nearby Spokane. WSU beat St. Louis 11-0 to cap a 7-1 season highlighted by an 86-0 win over the Blair Business College.
Even with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Wilcox is taking this in stride.
Various weather forecasts envision temperatures in the mid-30s or slightly below, perhaps dipping into the upper-20s as the game progresses. There is a possibility of snow or rain.
“We’re not talking minus-10,” he said of the forecast. “Mid-30s would be beautiful. Maybe we’ll bring some long sleeves, maybe an extra pair of socks. It’ll be great.”
The thing is, strange stuff can happen in The Palouse. Cal fans will recall in delight the 2014 game at Pullman, then WSU’s Quentin Breshears somehow missed a 19-yard field goal with 19 seconds left, allowing Jared Goff and the Bears to get out of town with a 60-59 victory in a game that featured 1,401 yards of offense.
Not such a warm memory for Old Blues is the 1996 game.
Cal was 5-0 under first-year coach Steve Mariucci, coming off a road win over USC and ranked No. 19. Snow flurries greeted the teams early in the game and the temperature never climbed above 37.
WSU pounced on a series of Cal mistakes, forging a 21-0 lead before the Bears regrouped. Down 21-18, Pat Barnes drove the team from the Cal 20-yard line, completing five straight passes, with Na’il Benjamin making a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch on the last one to give the Bears a first down at 1-yard line with just over a minute left.
The miracle comeback was 36 inches from completion.
But Barnes fumbled the snap on the next play, the Cougars recovered . . . and the Bears never did. They lost six of their final seven games to finish 6-6, then watched Mariucci exit for a job coaching the 49ers.
Barnes, to his credit, made no excuses. He didn’t complain that his hands were cold, although they certainly might have been.
And that game was played on Oct. 19.
Wilcox said the Bears will be prepared for any weather they might encounter Saturday night, just 13 days from Christmas.
He recalled coaching in some pretty chilly conditions in 2016 when he was defensive coordinator at Wisconsin.
“But I was up in the press box having hot chocolate,” he said.
Cal quarterback Chase Garbers probably won’t be sipping cocoa during the game.
“Guys that handle the ball, keeping their hands warm . . . there’s different ways to do that and we’ll have all that ready for them,” Wilcox said.
“Whether it’s 23 or 33, clear or snowing or somewhere in between, it’s another chance for us to play in a great environment. I know our guys will be excited.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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