The BYU football team hit the road for a nationally televised game for a second straight week, this time against the Texas Longhorns. The game started in the evening, but Cougars fans began arriving hours before kickoff to show their support.
Although the Longhorns are a prominent and nationally recognized football program, BYU fans exerted a strong presence at the game. BYU is recognized around college football as having a strong fan base that travels with the team. During his weekly coach’s show, BYU’s Coach Bronco Mendenhall relayed a story to Greg Wrubell and Mark Lyons about how impressive the fans are. One of the referees at the UConn game a week earlier asked Mendenhall if BYU always had so many fans attend its away games. The referee mentioned, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The night before the Texas game, at the Salt Lake airport, several flights full of Cougars fans were preparing to depart. Nearly everyone was wearing some sort of BYU gear.
As some fans took to the air, thousands of others took to their cars to get to the game, some driving for 12 or more hours. Fans from California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and many other points in between made the journey to watch their team take on Texas.
Despite being on the road, there were still many pre-game entertainment options put on for BYU fans. For those who lived in the area or arrived a day early, there was an opportunity to attend a fireside at the Round Rock Texas Stake Center on Friday evening. Members of the BYU football team spoke, bore their testimonies, sang church hymns and answered questions from the audience. Mendenhall began this tradition during his first season as the head coach at BYU, with firesides conducted the night before games.
Scott Robinson, the president of the local BYU Alumni Association organized a tailgate party inside Texas’ recreational center. With a big banner welcoming fans to “Cougar Town” in the heart of Austin, fans could eat Texas BBQ, buy BYU gear and talk to friends in a huge, air-conditioned gymnasium.
“I love it. Yeah, this is great,” Robinson said. “I live in Austin, lived here for 15 years … so I’m kind of the flag bearer, and all my friends know me as that BYU guy. So, it’s kind of fun to have some backup here.”
In addition, Austin local and former BYU quarterback Ty Detmer made an appearance and signed memorabilia as prizes to BYU fans.
The association was able to sell an estimated 850 tickets for the football game with many more BYU fans expected to join. Robinson said they overestimated to make sure they had enough food, and he still expected it to run out. At the end of the night, it was estimated that 10,000 BYU fans had attended the game.
Despite being a minority in Texas Memorial Stadium, a venue that can fit 100,119 people, BYU fans received a friendly welcome from the rival Longhorns.
“The great news is that UT (University of Texas) was great to work with,” Robinson said. “They helped us get this facility … they were great about just bending over backwards to accommodate us.”
Katie Barker traveled with her husband and family from Ogden, Utah, to be with fellow Cougars fans.
“We have traveled to a lot of away games,” Barker said. “This one has been the best by far.”
The Longhorn fans were also polite inside the stadium. On a BYU drive that ended with quarterback Taysom Hill leaping to the end zone, offensive lineman De’Ondre Wesley remained down with an injury. The stadium was silent as Longhorn fans waited respectfully with their iconic Longhorn hand sign raised in the air. Once Wesley was stood up and taken off the field, Texas fans cheered for him.
Next week, BYU will take on Houston in Provo. Unlike the Longhorns, Houston will have to face a LaVell Edwards Stadium filled with devoted BYU fans.
Whether at home or away, BYU fans will continue to be there for every game the football team sets out for. The football team will always have BYU fans that are ready to “Rise and shout!”