What do you call a BYU fan in a bar?
Okay, overused joke, I know. But, since BYU became independent, they have visited many foreign campuses where a joke like this is fresh. Welcome to Madison, Cougars. Wisconsin fans are primarily quick-witted and knee-slappingly funny, but this bit of humor was only worthy of a smirk and an eye-roll. Nevertheless, it is fun introducing fans who appreciate a top notch college atmosphere to one of the Big Ten’s best.
Ideal November weather encompassed Wisconsin’s state Capitol for a showdown between a pair of teams unfamiliar to one another, but who’s coaches are close friends. Badger head coach, Gary Andersen, credits BYU head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, with giving him his first big break in coaching. Mutual respect are words that come to mind with these two guys, even while Andersen coached Utah State and played Mendenhall’s BYU squad in their annual state rivalry.
This high quality matchup had much riding on it for two teams eyeing a BCS bowl bid. Both teams boast balanced offensive and defensive attacks. The difference? Camp Randall Stadium. This is not a welcoming venue for opponents – especially those outside the Big Ten who aren’t quite sure what to expect. Loud. Boisterous. Unrelenting. And during the Jump Around, raucous. We sat a couple steps from where BYU would make their entrance. I watched as the Cougars waited to storm onto the field. I paid special attention to the eyes of Mendenhall and the players standing behind him – they had a look of appreciation for this historic stadium that they were about to compete in.
But, BYU has experienced its share of intimidating stadiums and didn’t appear to allow the surroundings to affect their play. Upon scoring their first points, BYU fans near us were pleasantly surprised to hear the UW marching band play the Cougar fight song. It’s a welcoming gesture that is only done after the first score by an opponent. As BYU fans cheered along to the sound of their school song, I took it upon myself to gently explain that they should enjoy it while it lasts – they’ll only hear it once! As it was, BYU did not receive many opportunities to score anyway. The Badgers were able to slow down the potent Cougar attack and rely on a steady dose of James White and Melvin Gordon to light up the scoreboard. With the victory, Wisconsin can look forward to completing a season full of potential.