Utah State Aggies vs. BYU Cougars, 9/29/2022, 6:05pm MTN
Final Score: BYU 38 – Utah State 26; Attendance: 59,417
Weather: Cloudy, 80; Ticket: $26 (Face) BYU; Parking: Free
“It’s different, but not in a bad way”
Brigham Young University is in Provo, Utah, about forty-five minutes south of Salt Lake City. As a small city, at a population of roughly 200,000, getting to Salt Lake City is easier than you think. There seems to be a fair number of direct flights, particularly west of the Mississippi. Being the center of the Church of Latter Day Saints seems to make it a popular hub. From Salt Lake City, you can also take a short train ride to Provo if you do not want to drive. Despite the small size of the greater metropolitan area, we found a hotel about 15 minutes from campus and the stadium. In general, the scenery in the area is spectacular and we easily found hiking options nearby (we recommend the Timpanogos Cave hike). Park City is close by for more hiking and skiing. There’s also the great Salt Lake, that quite frankly did not seem that great from a distance. And of course, there are plenty of Mormon temples.
Lavell Edwards Stadium sits on the BYU campus. Nestled between big mountains to east and small mountains to west, it is a beautiful setting for a football game. There is ample parking around the stadium and much of it is free if you are willing to walk about ten minutes. As for tailgating, well, it is almost non-existent. There is a specific, but small lot for tailgating. It is free and we pulled up around 3 pm to check it out. There were, maybe, three or four parking spots available. There were two guys sitting there in BYU colors in what we assumed was a professional capacity. They confirmed the lot was free and it was for tailgating. They said it was currently filled with student commuters and it should start to have more spots available in the next hour or so. On their advice, we drove over to our hotel to check in and get ready for the game. Alas, we when got back to the lot, it had not cleared out and the remaining spots had been taken. Don’t be confused though, there were only two, maybe three, very low-key tailgates. As you can tailgate in any lot, we drove around the stadium and were amazed how quiet it was. I have been to several weeknight games at other universities and normally the scene is electric with packed lots of tailgaters who had started partying in earnest a little after noon time. At BYU, it felt like a Sunday morning church parking lot.
We parked our car and headed to the one set of tailgaters that had two tents. Again, this was one out of four tailgates we saw – in total! It was a small group but they were friendly and we talked to them about the BYU experience. To our surprise, they immediately asked if we wanted a beer. It was our luck that we apparently stopped at the one tailgate where they were drinking alcohol. I asked if they ever had any issues with local authorities and they said absolutely not. They even said a discrete open container was unlikely to be challenged. They also noted that not everyone that goes to BYU is Mormon. They said that the tailgating is a little better on a Saturday, which is not saying much. Nonetheless, the tailgate group we met were both friendly and fun. They even sent us on our way with a shot of Fireball, which has to be a rare occurrence in Provo. We followed the crowd toward the stadium where we checked out Cougar Canyon. This was your standard family friendly pre game festivities with a band, vendor tents and even a climbing wall. To say it was family friendly would be an understatement. It is not unusual to see kids at a college football game, but there were a lot of them. Never should it be said that the Mormons are not a fertile group of fans. There was even a stroller corral inside the stadium. It was a regular “Kids-R-Us” in and around Lavell Edwards stadium. As you might guess, the BYU students are conservative in attire. This is definitely a jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirt crowd. You aren’t going to see short skirts, shirtless guys or tight dresses with this bunch. Good, clean fun is an apt description.
With large video screens in each endzone combined with a capacity just under 65,000, ever seat is likely to be a good one. Ours were in the endzone for $26 which we bought directly from the university. There were also scoreboard ribbons on each side of the stadium. The video screens were so bright, it was almost like lightning when they flashed graphics on the board. Epileptics take note, the end zone seats may not be for you. The seats are primarily bleacher style with seat backs only in the center section of the stadium. The concession stand is a mix of standard staples with a few outliers. There is a $28 serving of pulled pork nachos that comes in a souvenir bowl. I decided to stick with my standard souvenir cup. The true star of the concessions, though, is the Cougar Tail. It is a 16” long maple bar (donut) for $5. I can proudly say I hammered that bad boy down in less than ten minutes. It was awfully good, and I didn’t need anything else to eat for the rest of the game.
The game intro is a good one with a large firework display for our visit. One rocket shell did manage to fall down right next to us, but it was no harm, no foul. The fans are loud, with constant “Let’s go Cougars” cheers. They sing the team song after every score and the scoreboard operator doesn’t just add in the light show but also lots of Cougar growls. Students also make a “Y” with two fingers and hold out their arms. The band was strong with some very precise marching. The fans were also attentive during the game, and there was almost no leaving early with this group. Their mascot is Cosmo the Cougar and he does a nice job running around, push-ups after touchdowns and the like. They also do bits, lots of bits. Stuff like field goal kicks by fans, dance contests, etc. It is a good atmosphere.
Utah State was a decided underdog coming into this game. They started off well enough with a score on their first drive. BYU answered with a touchdown of their own and then a pick six. The Aggies hung tough though and it was 17 – 17 at the half. The second half was all BYU. The Cougars eventually stretched their lead to 18 points. Utah State managed to get score late in the fourth to keep it respectable. The real difference in the game was turnovers. BYU had none, while Utah State gave up a fumble and two interceptions. Total yards were about the same. Historically speaking, the Cougars have been a solid program with perhaps a little help from Mormon players that return from their missions older and more mature than a normal college student. They will be joining the Big 12 next and it will be see interesting to see how they will be able to compete with the big boys on a consistent basis.
My traveling buddy for this game met me at the airport as he arrived first at Salt Lake City. His immediate observation was that Salt Lake may be the whitest place in the U.S. By extension, Provo may be the whitest place in the world. I am not being critical here, but it is about as diverse as a Seinfeld episode. I find Mormons to be friendly, hard-working with a good sense of humor. They just tend to be white. They also don’t drink, use caffeine or gamble. This makes the BYU game day experience atypical. It is not all that tailgates are Red Bull and vodka Vegas bacchanalia’s – but they generally have some degree of those elements. The BYU experience isn’t bad, but it is different. The Cougars play good football and the stadium setting is spectacular. The tailgating is not. If the tailgating were even average, I would say it is a must-see stadium. Instead, I have made a compromise, a Salt Lake City weekend is must-do. Meaning catch a game at both BYU and Utah. You will have two good, but different experiences.