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The experience beyond the game: BYU vs Texas

Game day is about more than just the teams on the field, sometimes it is the little aspects of the day that create the memories.

Aidan and the ROC
Aidan and the ROC
Kevin Kennedy

As the final seconds clicked off the scoreboard, the crowd roared with anticipation.

20 seconds left, 19, 18...

As with other fans, I looked around the stadium, making sure I took everything in one final time.

16, 15, 14...

The air was electric, and not just what was left over from the hour of lightning, but electricity that stimulated every sense in your body. It seemed as if every nerve in my body was in tune with the excitement that had built around the stadium.

8, 7. 6...

Not only was it a night to remember, but it was a night that I can and will pass on to my children and grandchildren. 4, 3, 2....

Like endings to all good stories, I was hit with an immediate flashback of the game's events.

2 PM

Game day started off with the anticipation usually reserved for kids on Christmas.  After 3 years of waiting, the day had finally arrived for BYU to face Texas at home. As my son, Aidan, and I pulled into my parking spot, we could feel that  there was something different about this game.

Aidan's excitement came from the game being the home opener, but for me it was much more.  It was validation that independence was paying off. We were getting national programs into Provo.

It is customary that we arrive early to the game so we can soak in the atmosphere, and since this would be Aidan's only game this year, he wanted to experience everything.

While we walked towards the stadium, we noticed a significantly higher number of visiting fans around the area.  We walked past numerous groups that had their Texas apparel, equipment, and flags flying high.  The fan base was proving to be as prominent as the team.

Even though the Longhorns were the enemy for the day, the first jaw dropping experience happened as we suddenly found ourselves dodging the Texas marching band and running right into Hook 'em the Mascot!  Aidan was so stunned, his jaw dropped and he actually began to stutter (I seriously thought that only happened in cartoons).  So after picking up his jaw, he ran over and asked to get a picture.  Of course the Mascot was happy to oblige, but his handler was not so accommodating.  After Hook 'em started to strike a pose, the handler grabbed him (or her) by the arm and pulled them away as they must have been running behind.  More than a little disappointed, we walked over to the west parking lot to take Aidan's mind off the missed opportunity.

Soon after, we crossed  the street and stepped over the curb into the parking lot where we entered into a carnival-like atmosphere.  To the left we saw the Utah National Guard's mechanical bull tossing kids and adults across the padded ring.

The screams and laughter mesmerized Aidan until he saw the inflatable slide sitting to the right.  Before I could dream of trying my hand at staying on a bull for eight seconds, Aidan had removed his shoes and shimmied up the slide.  As I watched him run and play with young cougars and longhorns, I relished the fact the he continually out slid and out flipped the kids in burnt orange.  After embarrassing numerous kids with his uncoordinated but winning display of acrobat racing, we wandered the area further to see what other treasures were waiting.

In our trek, we saw numerous companies with free giveaways such as shirts, backpacks, and candy.  We found spinning wheels for prizes, face painting and of course the football toss.  Aidan slipped one of three footballs through the smaller than normal hole, while I will blame my ineptitude (0 - 3) on the stadium chair that was still slung over my back.

3 PM

After making a return trip to the slide, we met up with Grandma and Grandpa to head into my carnival, Lavell Edwards Stadium!

As we crossed through the gates, the memories of previous games flooded over me. I remembered walking into those same gates as a young boy, like Aidan , and stopping to stare at the stands that towered over me. This was the first time I had ever seen BYU's field and for a moment, I was 13 years old again, reveling in the fact that I was at the game.

A rumble in my stomach forced me back into reality. We still had time before kick-off so we strolled around the stadium finding food for dinner and reminiscing on old times.

Our first stop was the new mural by the locker room.  Pictures do not do it justice, in person it is spectacular.  If you haven't seen it, take a look at the picture below.    If you haven't heard about it, read about it here.Mural_medium

What an addition this is to the stadium. It brings excitement and color to the concrete walls outside the home locker room.  Combined with the new ROC that sits just outside the tunnel, it adds wonders to the game day experience.

As I saw players going in and out of the locker room, I felt another flashback coming on. This one brought me back to the last time our Cougars wore their royal blues in LES.

It was 2009 against Utah, Max Hall was still our quarterback and tight ends that were still extremely active in our offense.  I was standing outside the locker room with Aidan and my oldest son, Justin.  As the players shuffled in and out of the pathway, each one would reach down and slap the kid's hands or ruffle their hair.  I remember taking a picture of Hall and Nelson strolling down the tunnel to the field.  The determination I saw in their eyes as they walked past me could kill.

I could see again clearly that awesome moment when Max Hall threw the winning pass to George while Aidan was jumping up and down so high that I worried he would topple down the stairs before I could grab him.  To prevent that nightmare, and to celebrate the victory, I picked him up and held him tight.

Snapping back to reality, I again saw Aidan slapping hands with players as they re-entered the locker room.  Somethings never change.  Briefly I wondered if today's game would end in a similar way.

4 PM

About the time we had found our dinner, the sky darkened and a drop or two of rain hit the ground.  Leaving Aidan with grandma so he could sit down, I ran off to procure his treasure of the day, the cougar tail (a delicious 2 foot long maple bar doughnut).

As I was standing in the long line of two, the full storm hit.  The 60 mph winds decided to take my hat and sunglasses into the concessions as everyone ducked for cover.  The rain came down in torrents, unlike anything I have seen for years.

The rest of the group moved to a bench that was a bit more sheltered so they looked warm and cozy compared to my wet cat look.  The cougar tail was dripping with water as I handed it over to Aidan, but that didn't seem to matter as I believe he downed it in two bites.

For the next two hours we waited for the rain and lightning to stop, heard the student section singing "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam," and listened in desperation for any updates from Greg Wrubell.

With one ear hooked to the radio, we devoted our attention to a couple that hailed from Texas.  We had a wonderful time chatting and putting a face to our "foe."  They told us about the their family, their home, and the experiences they had while traveling with their team.  We learned that they had some of the same concerns about their football team as we had about ours.  Aidan in particular made friends with them immediately.  He brought them a 10 minute game of hiding behind his poncho and then jumping out at them, while they provided him an extra stadium chair for the game.  We found common ground with those that we were hoping to disappoint at the end of the night.  Even if the game had ended differently, I will always remember this two hour period that was more enlightening than the game itself.

6 PM

Finally the announcement came through that the game was going to be played.  We found our way up to our seats and settled in for a wet but exciting kickoff.  I stared down at the field as the fireworks exploded and the players ran through the line of family and friends, onto the field.  I longed for the days when the players stood in front of the crowd and performed the Haka with such passion and power; bringing the crowd into their war dance. Sadly we were not blessed with that entertainment that day.

As the music blared and the teams lined up, it was time for the game.  Everyone got on their feet yelling and began screaming as the ball sailed through the air, launching the season at home.  With each offensive drive and each defensive stop, cheers and screams filled the stadium.  For most of the game the crowd was so loud that I couldn't hear the person next to me.  With each defensive third down the crowd noise increased with fans yelling, screaming, and stomping on the bleachers.  The players on the field continued to encourage the crowd to get louder, trying to disrupt the offense.  As fans we hope that we made a difference, and even if we didn't, it won't stop us from trying again next time.

With time beginning to wind down, the fans realized that an upset was a real possibility and the crowd became electric.  The fans around me were jumping up and down in excitement; Aidan couldn't stop talking about what was happening while bouncing around in his seat.  Each fan wanted the game to end with BYU on top, but at the same time didn't want it to end because we wanted to savor the moment.

The environment reminded me of 1996 when Texas A & M rolled into town and expected to steam roll over the Cougars.  The crowd didn't disappoint in that upset victory, and they rose to the challenge against Texas.  Once the game was over and the Cougars were victorious, the crowd was in awe.  Just like the night 17 years previous, I didn't want to leave.  The array of feelings are indescribable, and downright special.  With the excitement still flowing through my body, the memories of past events continued to flood my mind as we exited the stadium.

Each time I passed under the poster of a great player that hung from the stadium rafters, a replay of a great moment rushed through my mind.  Who could forget the 59-0 thrashing of UCLA or the excitement flowing out of K.O. Kealaluhi and his winning touchdown catch against Texas A & M.

Each moment that I have spent at the stadium created memories.  These memories with my parents, my siblings, and my own children can never be taken from me.  Each time I walk past the stadium I remember the joy on my kids' faces as they straddle the cougar while posing for pictures.  Lavell Edwards Stadium is more than a football stadium.  It is the history of a program. It is the hard work of individual players, and it is memories created between families, friends, and even opponents.  Even if I forget (I won't) the individual performances from this game, I will always remember the amazing two hours we spent with the rival fans while waiting for a game that did not disappoint.  This is the essence of BYU games to me. This is the experience beyond the game that makes it so special.

What is your favorite game day memory?  Let us know in the comments below.