PROVO — People danced in the streets.
They hugged perfect strangers.
They lit off fireworks.
And in general, they celebrated and celebrated and celebrated.
For a city home to a university that's won the title of "Most stone-cold sober" for 12 years in a row, Provo didn't look, act or feel like Provo Saturday evening.
In the wake of BYU's stunning 14-13 upset over No. 3 Oklahoma, spontaneous celebrations erupted throughout this city and lasted well into the early hours of the morning on Sunday.
BYU fans formed impromptu gatherings at places like LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Marriott Center, and the Wilkinson Center, among others, and several hundred of them showed up at the Provo Municipal Airport to welcome home the team when it landed at 1:45 in the morning.
It was a celebration unlike anything Provo had experienced in a long time.
"I've never seen everyone in Provo so excited after a game," said 21-year-old student Laurie Angell, who had been very sick for the past two days but nonetheless showed up at the Provo airport to celebrate BYU's arrival.
She wasn't the only one who felt that way.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his wife, Holly, had no idea that so many BYU students had showed up at the Provo airport when the team touched down just after 1:45 a.m. on Sunday. But after doing their best to wake their three sons — Cutter, Breaker and Raeder — the Mendenhalls, with BYU players following them, took time to acknowledge the support.
"It's a first for me," said Bronco Mendenhall of the early-morning reception. "I didn't know that the victory would have this kind of a widespread response already, but I think it's fantastic that these kids would stay up and come out to welcome our team. We appreciate it."
With the BYU students corralled behind a string of orange cones, BYU's coaches and players gave high-fives to their admirers before Mendenhall took a mic and briefly addressed them.
"Our hope is that we can continue to have these kind of meetings and reunions every week," he told the fans. "We can certainly feel your support all the way from here, and I think this is just the beginning."
As was the case with his coach, BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen was taken back by the reception his team received when it touched down in Provo but expressed appreciation to BYU's students for coming out.
"It's cool. It's really cool," said Jorgensen. "I've never seen anything like this before. Not many people have the opportunity to have this experience, so it's cool."
All in all, the reception at the airport, which was organized by Aaron Haslam, the vice president of activities for Cougar United, and executed by Dann Shumway, handler of Airside Operations at the airport, went off without any problems.
Like many other BYU students, Haslam went outside to celebrate after the Cougars held on to defeat Oklahoma in the first college football game played at shimmering Cowboys Stadium, and he quickly realized it would be fun to organize a mini-rally for the team when it arrived home in the early hours of the morning.
"I basically said, 'This needs to happen. What do we need to do?' " said Haslam, who got in touch with Shumway over the phone.
Shumway made Haslam's vision a reality.120 comments on this story
Despite having just three hours to get ready, Shumway managed to coordinate with Provo police and did what was necessary to host the students on the airport tarmac.
"Provo police told me I was crazy, but I thought we could keep the BYU students under control," said Shumway. "They did well."
Brothers Phil and Wayne Bulsiewicz of Raleigh, N.C., appreciated the fact that they were able to celebrate with their team at what proved to be a decent-size event.
"One of the things that makes those other colleges big time is that they make it big time by coming out and celebrating," said Wayne.
For one evening, at least, BYU fans certainly made themselves "big time."