Dec. 18, 2008
LAS VEGAS – The Arizona Wildcats arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday night to the familiar site of bright lights and the bustling Las Vegas Boulevard. On Wednesday, they were welcomed to their first bowl practice on the campus of UNLV to something not so familiar – snow!
The Wildcats knew that the weather was calling for colder than normal temperatures with a chance of precipitation each day while in the City of Sin in preparations for the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, but no sooner than the Wildcats exited the locker room to take the practice field did the snow begin to fall.
It was a site familiar to some players, such as sophomore tight end and Associated Press All-American Rob Gronkowski, who hails from Amherst, New York. To others, like Hawaii native quarterback Bryson Beirne, it was their first time seeing snow.
It was even a new experience for running back Keola Antolin, who attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in all the years I’ve lived here,” Antolin told reporters following practice.
Randy Cohen, UA’s director of medical services, said the rare snow event was exactly what should have been expected.
“You go to bowl games for new experiences,” Cohen said. “What possibly could be a newer experience for these guys than practicing in the snow in Las Vegas before a bowl game?”
As for the practice, it was an efficient and sharp practice despite the bitter weather. The snow did not serve as a distraction as coaches ran practice like any normal game preparation.
Quarterbacks and receivers were on-time with throws throughout most of the day, disproving one common misconception about wet weather affecting passing games. In fact, as UA associate head coach Dana Dimel explained, the wet conditions usually affect the running game more because of the slippery track for footing blockers and for cuts made by running backs. Not to mention, the conditions also hinder pass-rush abilities against the pass and defensive backs’ abilities to break on passing routes.
Thursday looks to be shaping up as a beautiful day for football and the Las Vegas experience. The sun was peaking through the clouds just after 9 a.m. local time with practice scheduled for Noon. Like Wednesday, players will enjoy a catered lunch at the practice site afterwards, before returning to the Venetian hotel for some afternoon down time.
This evening the team will trip to Fremont Street in downtown for the Outback Buffet Bowl – a dinner event welcoming both teams.
Kickoff for the Pioneer is Las Vegas Bowl is set for 5 p.m. (PST) on Saturday, Dec. 20 at Sam Boyd Stadium.