The nicest fans in the world. —Wisconsin fan Mike Stakemiller said of the home crowd
PROVO — Wisconsin alumni Carrie and Tim Bussian couldn't believe what they heard from BYU fans while visiting LaVell Edwards Stadium for Saturday's football game.
They were equally stunned by what happened in the stands.
Same goes for Badger fans — and there were plenty of them in attendance — who traveled to Utah County from Wisconsin, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Idaho and elsewhere around the country.
BYU didn't exactly make a great impression on the field, struggling to a 40-6 loss to the No. 10 team in the nation, but the program can feel good about how its fans repped the Y.
To sum up Saturday:
Wisconsin killed BYU on the football field.
BYU fans killed Wisconsin’s plethora of fans with kindness off of it.
“It was like the twilight zone,” said a smiling Brian Bay, uncle of the team’s long snapper, who came up from Phoenix with a group of Wisconsin supporters.
“The nicest fans in the world,” friend Mike Stakemiller said of the home crowd.
Carrie Bussian said things weren’t nearly as nice when she attended a game in Big Ten country.
The difference at Iowa compared to Provo?
“A lot more threats,” she said, recalling a trip to Kinnick Stadium. “I was worried. I had a Wisconsin sticker on my car and I was worried it was going to be knocked over.”
The Midwest-bred Bussians now live in Bountiful, but this was the Wisconsin alumni’s first time attending a BYU game. They left with smiles and a couple of CougarTail doughnuts for the road.
“They looked delicious,” Tim said of the culinary Cougar tradition.
Wisconsin fans in the visitors' section were treated with a delicious treat during the game, too. Stadium employees handed out free cups of ice cream from the BYU Creamery as a welcoming gesture from the university and the Alumni Association.
“They were so sweet to do that,” Carrie said.
BYU fans did their own version of rolling out the red carpet for this red-clad crowd.
A dozen or so Cougar fans approached the Bussians and treated them in a way visiting football fans aren’t necessarily accustomed to being treated on the road: nicely.
“We had so many people stop us and welcome us to (their) city,” Carrie said.
Adam Bartling of Chicago said BYU fans ranging from ages 8 to 50 stopped his family, shook their hands and said, “Welcome to Provo!”
“I’ve never seen anything like it," the twentysomething Wisconsin fan said.
“They are friendly people,” his brother Matt from Ames, Iowa, said. “It’s been great. No complaints at all.”
That doesn’t make for a very juicy story, but it does leave a lasting impression.
Speaking of juicy, Jeff Wendorf, vice president of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, credited the Utah Valley Convention Center’s catering staff for properly preparing the requisite brats the way Wisconsinites like them. (And if you’re guessing they like their brats with beer, you’re right — but not just to wash them down.)
“We told them how to boil (brats) in beer beforehand, and then grill them — then oftentimes you put them back in the beer mixture,” Wendorf said, explaining that butter and onions are added to the brew marinade. “It’s a special way. It prevents the brats from breaking open and getting dry. They stay in their natural casing and juices.”
About 800 fans participated in Saturday’s traditional Badger Huddle, an official tailgating party that takes place at each home and away game. Some Wisconsin fans turned this BYU game into an extended vacation, visiting Temple Square and national parks in the area. The pregame gathering made downtown Provo look like Madison West, with hundreds of attendees decked out in red and white shirts, striped overalls, pompons, Bucky the Badger hats, Wisconsin-themed shoes and socks, BEAT BYU pins and beer — lots of beer.
Matt Frey and Krista Deutsch-Frey felt like celebrities at the Wisconsin party.
Wisconsin fans Matt Frey and Krista Deutsch-Frey dress up like LDS missionaries during the Wisconsin-BYU football game Saturday in Provo. | Jody Genessy, Deseret News
The good-natured couple dressed up as pretend Mormon missionaries, humorously calling themselves Elder Bucky and Sister Becky (in honor of the school mascot and a short-lived female friend). They wore white shirts, ties, bike helmets (safety first!) and homemade black name badges that aptly said “The University of Wisconsin Madison” instead of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The Madison missionaries could barely move without being asked to take a picture. Some BYU faithful also got some photos with them.
“We have LDS friends and just kind of thought it would be fun to dress up as missionaries for the game today,” Matt said before the game.
Their game experience was also positive — and not just the final score.
"Everyone at the game was great. We parked at the home of some BYU fans and they asked to have their picture taken with us," Frey said. "We got a few sideways glances at the game, but in all everyone was really cool about it. Provo did a great job of making us feel welcomed.”
(For the record, the Frey and Deutsch-Frey companionship might have to be informed about some Mormon missionary rules. Beer isn't allowed, of course. Elder Bucky had a scruffy face. And Sister Becky wandered away from her companion at one point of the party.)
The affable couple drove from Boise, Idaho, their post-Wisconsin home for 15 years, on a mission of their own.
"Our goal," Sister Becky said, "is to convert some Wisconsin fans today."
Kirsten Crowhurst traveled from Chicago to attend Saturday's game with her friend and fellow Wisconsin alum Jocelyn Yale, who's doing grad school work at the University of Utah.
"I wasn’t invited," Crowhurst said, laughing. "I looked at the schedule and I said, 'Oh, Badgers at BYU, this is happening, let’s go.'"
So, she came — and jokingly had a mission of her own.
"We’re super pumped to drink out Provo dry," Crowhurst said. "I’ll consider it the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever had if Provo still has beer after this game."
Hate to be the bearer of heartbreaking news, but Provo still has beer.
ABG’s Libation Emporium, one of Provo's two bars, opened its doors unprecedently early Saturday morning to accomodate the thirsty Wisconsin contingent. Bartender Bryttan Johnson described the bar as being "super busy" from 10 a.m. until about a half-hour before the 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
"Almost like New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day," she said. "Pretty crammed."
ABG's certainly doesn't have as much stock as it did Friday night, but it's not quite dry.
"We didn’t run out of (anything but Pabst beer), but they did drink a lot," Johnson said. "It was way fun. They were all very nice."
The bartender said Wisconsin fans said the same thing about BYU fans. Like red Wisconsin garb and beer, there was plenty of niceness to go around this college town.
LDS leadership set the tone before kickoff. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was approached by several people while getting out of his car before the game. He spent a moment engaged in a friendly conversation with a Wisconsin fan before entering the stadium with his wife.
Several thousand fans from the school known for its travel parties (multiple meanings) filled the northwest corner and were sprinkled throughout the blue and white stadium. They weren't allowed to have beers, but they made plenty of cheers (including a "Beer! Beer! Beer!" cheer).
Some groups had split loyalties, like Dan and Kim Cannon.
Originally from Utah, the Cannons both graduated from BYU before moving to Wisconsin for nine years. They now live in Oregon but decided to return home to watch this football game in person and to reunite with some Wisconsin friends who traveled to Provo.
It was kind of a win-win situation for the Cannons.
“I was cheering for both,” Kim said.
For the record, she got many more high-fives from Badger faithful in the visitors’ section because of her red Wisconsin hat.
Dan and their son both wore blue, grey and white BYU gear.
"It would have been nice if the game was a little closer," Dan admitted. "I wanted to see a good game one way or the other. It didn’t work out that way."
David Esser, a Wisconsin transplant who's lived in Riverton for 12 years, was thrilled to have a taste of Camp Randall in the Beehive State.
"We’re crazy about our football in Wisconsin — Packers and Badgers," Esser said, "and having a good time."
Esser conceded that Wisconsin's way of doing football games was "polar opposite" of BYU, but he pointed out that both sides have things in common, too.
"They’re good-hearted, good religious people, too," he said of Wisconsin fans. "They just like to have their fun and they have their beer. It’s just a different take on it, a different way to do it."
A BYU fan walked by and yelled at his friend during the interview, "Good luck today! I'm sure you guys will win!"
His Wisconsin counterparts will tell you BYU fans have their own way, too.