Last month after BYU upset San Diego State 71-58, the student section stormed the court at the Marriott Center. This weekend, Cougar fans gave their team the road win equivalent.
Two hours after BYU knocked San Diego State off the top spot in the Mountain West Conference with an 80-67 victory, a group of about 125 loyal fans gathered at Provo Municipal Airport to welcome their team home and congratulate the players on their win.
The fan club braved a 30 degree chill and soggy snow to see the hometown team. But Jake Darley, a BYU student from Jackson, Wisc., said he wasn't about to miss this chance to be part of the basketball team's big day, no matter what the weather.
"This is history in the making," Darley said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's one of the biggest games BYU has played in basketball history."
Elliot Winters, a student from Prosper, Texas, said BYU star Jimmer Fredette makes this year a special one for BYU basketball.
"The last time we were talking about a player like this, it was Danny Ainge," Winter said. "That was our parents' generation. Jimmer's our generation. It's something to get excited about, it's cool."
The impromptu event started with the Front Row Fanatics, who quickly spread the word through online message boards, text messages and Twitter.
The crowd was mostly made up of students, but also included a few alumni who brought their young children into the cold to get a glimpse of Fredette and his teammates.
Tamber McAllister and her husband Eric brought their 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son to the tarmac.
"We're a BYU family, that's for sure," McAllister said. "We love the Cougars, so we're just coming to support them."
Noah Hartsock said the warm welcome was an extension of the San Diego climate.
"The weather's a little bit different in San Diego, it's not as sunny here," Hartsock said. "It's great to be out here, it's a lot of fun to see the fan support. It's really nice."
Hartsock said the fans waiting on the runway was a contrast from The Show, the intimidating SDSU student section.
"It was a crazy place, but I'm just glad we're back," Hartsock said.
Winters said BYU's performance in the game was enough to counter whatever The Show had planned.
"It was nice shutting up the critics who were talking about how we are a one man team and San Diego State is the top of the conference," Winters said. "I've been watching a lot of the smack talk San Diego State's been putting up over the last month since our last game. It's nice shutting them up."
While waiting for their team to land at the otherwise silent airport, fans reflected on the game and its significance.
One fan from Orem, who calls himself "the Anti-Snake" (BYU's version of New Mexico's crazy-fan-in-residence Mark "Snake" Tichenor) and does not want to reveal his true identity, wore his fuzzy blue and leopard print jacket and hat as he waited for the team's plane to come.
The Anti-Snake brought his loud costume but was soft-spoken as he described what it meant to him to watch BYU beat SDSU.
"These are players that I've gone and I've watched every week for months and months, I know their names and I know who they are," the Anti-Snake said. "Now we've got national media covering it, and they're paying attention to my team. And it's really good to see them get the road win like that, and on national TV, because the team looked darn good. And there's not anybody in the country who's going to deny that now."
The Anti-Snake said the game proved BYU has many impressive players, not just Fredette.
"Last time San Diego State came and played up here, Jimmer was carrying a lot of the offense," the Anti-Snake said. "(Today) you had players hitting shots from all over the place. (Charles) Abouo was so big, so was Jackson Emery. And you've got to give credit to Hartsock, who's an absolute warrior."
On Saturday, Fredette scored 31 percent of BYU's total points. Abouo had 23 percent, Hartsock had 19 percent and Emery had 16 percent. In the previous game with SDSU, Fredette's output made up 61 percent of his team's score.
"It was a real fun game to watch," the Anti-Snake said. "It's one I'm going to remember for a long time."
Winters said this win over SDSU puts BYU in place to be successful against other teams in both the upcoming MWC and NCAA tournaments.
"I think we can go pretty far. We can play with anybody," Winters said. "There's a lot of talk about how we can't play against Big 10 or Big East teams. And I don't think that's true at all."
Even before arriving home, Hartsock said he was also focusing on what this win means for the future.
"It's great for us that now we don't have to worry about anybody else in the conference," Hartsock said. "We just have to worry about ourselves right now. If we just do the right things and win, we're going to come out first place (in the MWC tournament), and we did our best and we did our part. We just have to keep going."8 comments on this story
The Anti-Snake said the MWC Tournament will be the culmination of BYU's battle through the conference. "We put the whole league on notice when we went and won in Vegas (in January)," the Anti-Snake said. "We've locked it up, so now we just need to take care of business, and do what BYU does and win at home."
BYU coach Dave Rose said loyalty from fans this season, like that shown at the frigid Provo airport on Saturday, has made every win a little sweeter.
"It was a great win, and we're really thankful to all these people who support us," Rose said. "But we've had great support all year."