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Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
BYU fan William McAllister, blue shirt, finds himself alone among friends at the U.'s Olpin Student Union. His friends, Bob Neve, left, Chuck Neve and Ivan Yordanov, watch in horror as a fourth-down reception keeps the Cougars alive.

PROVO — There's nothing special about Nov. 24. It isn't a holiday. It's just a date, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, sandwiched between Nov. 23 and Nov. 25.

But Nov. 24 wasn't just an ordinary day this year. Ask any one of the some 20,000 people who milled around Brigham Young University's LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday: When BYU meets the University of Utah on the football field for battle, it's an event to plan for.

"This is isn't just any football game, this is THE football game," said Jason Coy, a 28-year-old BYU fan.

The combination of an evenly divided stadium and traditionally tight scores made the BYU versus U. game particularly electric, he said. Plus, there's the issue of earning the right to trash-talk co-workers and friends who are "almost all a fan of one team or the other."

"If we win, we get to rub it in for a year," said Adam Strong, a 21-year-old U. fan from Bountiful. "If we lose, then we've got to suffer through 365 days of listening to them brag."

For some fans, there was more hinging on the game's outcome than bragging rights, though.

After BYU's 17-10 victory over the Utes Saturday, diehard U. fan Don Baxter will be sporting a BYU license plate cover on his car. He has to leave it on for a month — something he's "kind of nervous about."

Baxter's family, which is divided in team loyalty, makes a different bet every year. Last year the losers had to shave their legs.

"The rivalry is serious fun," he said, "We look forward to it."

BYU fan Jeff Thomsen and his family celebrated the big rivalry game with two tailgate parties. They got together before the game to get pumped up over pancakes and hot chocolate. They got together after the Cougars' victory to celebrate with bratwurst.

"If Utah could lose every game of the year, that would be OK with me," he said.

The fans aren't the only ones who made special plans for Saturday's game.

The entrance to the Pizza Hut at 1523 N. Canyon Road, just a block from the stadium, was almost obscured by a mountain of pizza boxes. A sales associate stood out front passing out ready-made medium pizzas for a game-day price of $6 each.

The store expected to sell between 700 and 800 pizzas on the front lawn, said shift manager Cassandra Roach, who is a proud BYU fan. On an ordinary game day, the store only sells about 350 pizzas to passing fans.

The Chevron Extra Mart across the street from the stadium made plans not to sell gas during the game. Boxed in by bumper-to-bumper traffic, manager Megan VanWagnen said the store made more money selling parking at $10 a vehicle than they would have selling gas.

Their tiny store was so crowded with fans trying to purchase snacks for the game, there was a line winding around the outside of the building.

Jack Byrne was banking on the game to help kick off a fledgling business. He and his wife and son, who live in Orem, made 3-D "Y" and "U" signs to sell to fans on their way to the stadium. The family also hand-made a chocolate mold to make BYU lollipops.

"This town is full of excitement," he said, waving a 2-foot blue "Y" — his team of choice. "Anybody can feel that."

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