This series will be a joint one between Stephen and I and we intend to write one per season. We have a friend group that attends one big non-Tech game per year and we intend to document those experiences here. You can expect some fun tailgating stories, some hot takes, some fawning over stadiums, and some ramblings about “atmosphere”, but most importantly you’ll find the honest account of a few guys on a quest to experience all that the wild and wacky world of College Football has to offer.
After attending what quite simply could not have been a better game in 2019 in Death Valley, the Fellas decided to test their mettle and seek out a snow game. We set our eyes on week 12, Wisconsin playing host to Nebraska in Camp Randall Stadium. Other finalists for this year’s trip included Iowa State vs Iowa and Colorado vs Washington. Wisconsin was a well-liked choice by everyone and I (Chris) in particular was interested in seeing a cold-weather Big 10 matchup. We didn’t get our snow game dream but we checked pretty much every other box and had an absolutely awesome time.
Thursday 4:00pm: Stephen sets his out of office message and begins the trek to Hartsfield. Regrets almost every day moving 2 hours away from the airport.
Thursday 6:45ish: Stephen is through security, has checked my only luggage and am walking through the airport unencumbered by the shackles of society. All I have on my person is my airpods, phone, wallet, and car key. I’m the Alpha of Terminal C. Several people stop me to ask how they can achieve my level of airport serenity. I walk into the Sky Lounge and rose petals are thrown at my feet. I’m two hours out from boarding and am going to make Delta earn that $27 entry fee.
Thursday 7:30pm: Bill meets me at the Sky Lounge and is instantly shocked by the aura exuding from my person. Louisville @ Duke has just kicked off, and the Ultras are flowing.
Thursday 7:35pm: I (Chris) get Chick-fil-A in the Detroit airport shortly after landing from Boston. I’ve got my cravings and I need to get the good chicken where I can.
Thursday 9:00pm: Our eye in the sky correspondent Jeff finds me on the Big Brother Airport apparatus and pulls some Jason Bourne stuff. Entire FTRS Slack group is gobsmacked that I’m carrying nothing but a smile and my Homefield sweatshirt onto the jetway.
Thursday 9:15pm: I (Stephen) am thanked by the flight attendant for being a Medallion Member (pretty sure I’m not a medallion member. I fly maybe 3 times a year). The girl in the row in front of me turns around, also shocked, and says “but I’m a medallion member too… why didn’t they thank me?”. Sweetheart, when people understand you’re living the No Luggage Lifestyle, they can’t help but effuse you with praises whether they’re merited or not.
Thursday 9:45pm: I (Chris) arrive at the Madison airport. It is small, nothing is open. I eagerly await Stephen and Wild Bill. Some people are bundled up, some are in shorts; it is 28 degrees.
Thursday 10:24pm: Touchdown in Madison for the Atlanta contingency. Like Chris said, it’s cold. I remark that the cold is refreshing (about 25 minutes later waiting for an Uber I take it back).
Thursday 11:34pm: We arrive at the hotel. Bill chooses a bar for us to go to. It’s DJ night, so we pivot and find somewhere else. Bill is 0/1 on choosing a place.
Thursday 11:32pm: We arrive at Vintage Spirits for our first taste of Spotted Cow. It’s everything it was made out to be and I am so happy it’s not overrated. Unfortunately they tell us it’s last call 3 hours before their posted closing time (google is a lie) so we have to leave after just a few minutes.
Thursday 12:02am: We arrive at bar 3, another choice from Bill. It’s a college bar and we are the oldest people here. Bill is relieved of bar choosing duty. We’re told there is a $5 cover that comes with a free drink ticket. Stephen is thoroughly confused; their promotion makes zero sense to his IE brain.
Thursday 12:43am: Someone in this bar just tried to give us a rock? Like an actual rock from the ground. Stephen declines the gentleman’s offer, and he shakes his head knowingly like this sort of thing happens to him all the time. God I feel old.
Thursday 1:02am: We make it to Ian’s Pizza. They have multiple pizzas with pasta on them? Not mac and cheese, like full-on penne pasta. We retire for the night with our bellies full.
Friday 10:12am: We wake up and head to Bassett Street Brunch Club for some food. We all eat entirely too much but it was so delicious. I (Chris) had a breakfast burrito that contained tater tots. Bill went with a bagel sandwich. Stephen got table envy and ordered a huge stack of chocolate chip pancakes after the table next to us had theirs delivered. So much sugar. Crash is imminent. It was about 20 degrees when we woke up and it will not get over 24 during the course of the day.
Friday 11:18am: We find the Wisconsin Cheese Mart and poke around. I (Chris) bought some cheese to bring back home (remember this for later).
Friday 11:45am: We walk around the capitol building and get some good rooftop views of the town. The sitting Governor at the time of construction had to have been the biggest [Atlanta Rhythm Section]hole there ever was. This building was built in the early 1900’s and it had marble shipped from both ALGERIA and NORWAY, back when the only way to do so was by boat and railroad. This guy also must have been a “no luggage in the airport” kind of guy to have literally nobody question him about this outlandish amount of marble shipped from across the globe. Also there are literally badger statues and art all over this building (and all over Madison in fact) - it is firmly ingrained in their state culture and not just a mascot.
Friday 12:23pm: We hang out at Great Dane Pub and Brewing for a little bit while we wait for Jack to arrive. Verizon must not have made it to Madison yet because there’s zero cell phone reception here.
Friday 2:01pm: We continue our wait at Dotty Dumpling Dowry with more Spotted Cow. They advertise the world’s best hamburger but we’re saving our stomachs for cheese curds later and just enjoy a light fried pickles snack (they were awesome btw).
Friday 4:02pm: After putting on an extra undershirt, we head to The Old Fashioned for a late lunch once Jack arrives. This was by far the most often-recommended place we found in our research so we are excited for it. We start off with our first cheese curd experience, get a pitcher of Spotted Cow, and all order the brat sandwich. It was all fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about this place - it should be on your radar if you’re looking to travel to Madison.
Friday 5:58pm: We waste some time at 7 Iron Social before our upcoming steakhouse dinner. This virtual driving range experience includes a host of various virtual games in addition to regular golf. After all sucking at golf we try out the quarterback challenge and all suck at it. We blame the machine for not registering our pinpoint-precise passes. We then swap to the field goal challenge and are now certain that the machine works perfectly fine because Stephen is just stroking these field goals. Stephen - Sure it was off a kickoff tee. But I was wearing boots and jeans, so we’re going to say those things cancel out. I go 5/5 twice, but somehow don’t break the high score. Game’s rigged. Note from Chris: people forget that Stephen walked on at Tech, dude can KICK.
Friday 8:47pm: We arrive for our reservation at Johnny Delmonico’s Steakhouse. The Fellas eat well. The table behind us (full of youths) tries to pay with both cash and card and there’s a whole thing happening. It does not detract from the great steak and service we received. Stephen and Jack get Brandy Alexanders as a dessert cocktail and they are excellent. If you haven’t had the pleasure of a Brandy Alexander, the upcoming holiday season is the perfect time to do so. We fully admit that we played right into the “guys on a boy’s trip go to a steakhouse” stereotype but we don’t care; we had a great time.
Friday 12:55am: Joe arrives. We are at full strength. Everyone but Chris fell asleep before Joe’s stated ETA (note from Chris: I am the responsible dad on trips). We all lift our heads, give a mighty “ayyyy” then go back to sleep. Jack is still fully clothed but asleep.
Saturday 10:15am: Some fellas hit the Bookstore to buy beanies. Wisconsin is cold y’all (today’s high is around 33). We walk around campus and find a tailgate with some beer and brats. We’ve walked through just about the entire campus with a bottle of [redacted] and some solo cups. On arrival at the student union tailgate we are informed there’s a $300 fine for open container violations outside of the confines of the tailgate. We all give one another a big eyed stare, drain the last of the [redacted], and await the arrival of the Wisconsin Marching Band for their version of playing at the Campanile.
Saturday 2:15pm: We make our way to Camp Randall Stadium. You walk through some giant stone arches to get there; it kinda does feel like a camp. Security was that gif of the older security pat-down guy just waving people through; he just asked that we all unzip and open our jackets for an ocular patdown. I’m 30% sure I didn’t even need a ticket.
Saturday 2:35pm: Oh my god Wisconsin ran back the opening kick.
Saturday 2:40pm: We think the student section is sparse but then we notice there’s a first-come-first-seated policy and a steady stream of students (about 14k in total) trickles in throughout the half. These kids literally waited in a line for just about the entire first half to get inside; the dedication was insane. We’re all in awe of students caring about football for a full 3+ hours.
Saturday 2:55pm: Chris brat count for today: 3. Stephen brat count for the trip: 6?
Saturday 4:30pm: All the fellas get hot chocolate; this weather is no joke. It’s about 30 degrees for most of the game and the wind chill then brings it considerably below that. Stephen regrets not buying the flannel insulated jeans before the trip. Metal bleachers in the winter suck.
Saturday 5:00ish: There’s a woman behind us yelling at the refs in the most polite midwestern accent we’ve ever heard. She’s saying things like “hey there Mr. Referee, would you like some glasses so you can see better out there?”. (I don’t really know how to type out a midwestern accent like I do a Boston or southern accent but please read it in your head).
Saturday 5:38pm: The game ends and we make our way through the throng of a zillion people to Echo Sports Bar for some final tastes of Spotted Cow and cheese curds. After delicious burgers, we complete our 20,000+ step day and take it back to the hotel. We’re all gassed and fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Arizona State.
Sunday 9:55am: We make it to the Madison airport to leave. Wild Bill doesn’t realize where the TSA pre-check is and gets in the regular line with us plebeians. He then gets searched by the TSA and is highly nonplussed.
Sunday 10:30am: Stephen and Bill buy a 12 pack of Spotted Cow in the airport like captive market fools. But this will be well worth it come this Saturday when Stephen plans to just tailgate for the uga scrimmage and stay in the parking lot for 4 hours.
Sunday 11:35am: I (Chris) hurry off my plane in Minneapolis and am able to snag the last standby seat on an earlier flight home to Boston. Last Fellas trip I sat waiting in the NOLA airport for 7 hours so this is a huge win for me, the Fella who apparently lives in the most remote part of the country.
Sunday 3:18pm: Death at the postage stamp stadium for Atlanta United comes over the radio call of Mike Conti and Jason Longshore on 92.9. What a wretched ride home to suburbia for Stephen.
Sunday evening: All fellas arrive safely and soundly home.
The Actual Game
It was a great game. Wisconsin running back the opening kick really was the difference maker - they were barely able to cling to that one-score lead and Nebraska was constantly pressuring them throughout the evening. There definitely wasn’t as much defense as we anticipated; the Wisconsin run defense was stellar but the secondary let Adrian Martinez throw all over them. What really saved this game for the Badgers was an incredible showing from RB Braelon Allen - he ran for 228 yards and 3 TDs on just 22 carries. Two of those TDs were 50+ yard scampers and he broke off several other long ones. Graham Mertz was a perfectly serviceable quarterback but they didn’t really ask him to do much other than short-medium routes to the TE and a few deep shots.
On the flip side, Adrian Martinez was electric in both good and bad ways. He finished with 351 passing yards and was making big throw after big throw for most of the night. Nebraska also loves running offense through their TE so Austin Allen had a huge game. Every time the Wisconsin defense looked like they were going to lock things down the Huskers would break off a huge 40+ pass play. It made for a very entertaining game.
It was highly competitive and there was even a bit of contrasting styles going on with how each team approached the offensive side of the ball. I do sort of feel bad for Nebraska because the final play was definitely pass interference but a few plays before that they got a pretty lucky call the other way and I’m not convinced their final play would’ve actually scored anyways. Still, man it’s gotta be painful to be a Nebraska fan this year. They nearly came in and pulled off a huge upset but came just a few yards short.
Stephen: I was basically just going to repeat exactly what Chris said above, especially the final drive. The non-call for PI on Nebraska’s last play was about as egregious as the PI they did call on Wisconsin earlier in the drive where the ball landed at least 5 yards out of bounds. So instead of talking about football I’m going to talk about the single most confusing yet awesome thing I’ve ever seen in a football stadium.
At some point in the third quarter we hear this roar emanating from the North Endzone (student section). It starts slow, but appears to be not at all related to what’s happening on the field because we’re in a TV timeout. One side of the endzone would chant, and the other would reply. It had a sort of “Yellow / Jackets” vibe to it. But after about 5 iterations of the chant I finally can discern what’s being said. One side is screaming at the top of their lungs “[FOREIGNER] YOU!” and the other side replies, at equal volume, “EAT [STYX]!”
This went on for at least 5 solid minutes. Nobody in the stadium seemed to care, and we all had our mouths agape at what we were witnessing. It was hilarious and awesome and I need more details as to how this “tradition” started. Note from Chris: I was stupefied by and enamored with this. It was so out of the blue and nonsensical. Just pure dumb fun.
Leaving the stadium on our long walk down from Section CC, we got to hear the start of Bucky’s Fifth Quarter, which is akin to Tech’s postgame band performance. I love the hell out of The Horse, but Bucky’s Fifth Quarter is a pretty good show too.
Favorite Anecdotes and Personal Highlights
- Cheese curds are delicious y’all. I don’t love super gooey cheese stuff so the fact that they still hold their shape even while fried and piping hot is a huge win in my book. I’m also a huge sucker for anything that uses Ranch as a dipping sauce.
- Spotted Cow is also delicious. Y’all see how much we mentioned it earlier? It’s because we loved it. Literally everyone we talked to said it was the number one thing we needed to do while there and in the back of my mind I thought it’s getting oversold, there’s no way it lives up but it TOTALLY does. Honestly everything we ate and drank while there was awesome - Wisconsin knows how to satisfy when it comes to food and drink.
- While going through security in Madison my bag got flagged for a manual check. The guy asks me all the usual “Do you have anything sharp or dangerous in here?” stuff and I say no. He then pulls out the block of cheese I bought earlier (told y’all this would come back) and in an incredible midwestern accent says “ohhh I thought ya said ya didn’t have anything sharp in here son!” and I was completely floored at such an incredible joke that I somehow didn’t see coming. That guy has to use that line at least 10 times a day and I’m sure it brings him so much joy. Elite humor.
- I conversed with a moderately inebriated fan in the line for hot chocolate who definitely thought we were lifelong Badger fans. Thanks to the greater Moon Crew universe, I could talk enough shop to hold my own in what was long enough of a conversation to go beyond the base layer fan-speak. This particular fan was talking about buying tickets to both Indy and the Rose Bowl and I left him with one pearl of wisdom: maybe don’t willingly go to the upcoming game against Ohio State if you can help it; you might hate yourself if you spend actual money to do so.
- From about May through Halloween I bet Madison is an awesome college town to be in. It’s a nice campus with a great surrounding city. But from November until the thaw hits, I could not imagine having to walk to class every day. I’ll admit I’m a weak baby of a man when it comes to being unnecessarily cold and I can firmly attest that Wisconsin students are #BuiltDifferent in that regard.
- Lastly, I’ll agree with Chris about the recommendations we received. We weren’t able to hit everything (missed out on supper clubs and were too late in the game to go to Tornado’s), but what we were able to hit was all great and having an extra day there compared to our LSU trip made a huge difference.
- Bucky’s Fifth Quarter twitter responders for helping us build our itinerary. All the recommendations we got were awesome.
- Random rock guy - we’ll never forget you. For better or worse.
- The guy in our row that was sitting with his elderly father. Your dad seemed like a very genuine person who was getting all his next-level stats & info through the radio call he had in one ear. But the son belted out a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem while it was being played by the band. Only 2 of us heard it, but looked at each other at the conclusion and were like “holy smokes”.
Camp Randall fits nearly 30k more people than Bobby Dodd but it honestly isn’t that much visually bigger. It doesn’t really have sections the way we do - 80%+ of the seats are in one giant bowl and I think that allows them to really pack people in; there’s no wasted space. Personally I loved it. It has an old, historic feel to it that’s very charming (really this is true of everywhere we went in Madison). I’m also a huge sucker for when entire stadiums do things together so getting to see 80k people do Jump Around was super awesome (bonus: it got my blood pumping for a few minutes - a small grasp of warmth!). Same goes for all the sing-alongs - it felt like every song that was played had the whole stadium belting out and it’s really neat to hear when they cut the music and the singing keeps going.
We mentioned how the student section took 1.5 hours to fill up earlier, but it merits talking about further. 14 THOUSAND students filed into their seats in an orderly fashion in 30 degree weather just hoping to see the second half and yet we need to offer a zillion incentives and punishments to get our MUCH smaller student section to fill up. They were also by FAR the loudest part of the stadium - we sat somewhat opposite of them and the roar once Nebraska got down to their end of the field hit us like a freight train. All of their chants and motions were super coordinated too; they were highly invested and involved in the game.
I’m a big sucker for “weird stadium things”, and Camp Randall checked the box in a couple of ways for me.
1) The entire South Endzone, much like Tech’s, was virtually empty. And it could be the lack of season ticket seats with the seatbacks locked in place that made it look more full along the sidelines than it actually was, but the rest of the stadium (except the Upper West corners) was almost full the entire game. This will be remedied with this offseason’s installation of what looked like a pretty cool luxury box area that will be adjacent to the fieldhouse.
2) The huge swath of box seats from endzone to endzone that were like 5 levels high was also really cool to see. Accommodating the sheer number of people willing to pay top dollar to watch your football team in heated comfort seems like a good idea.
3) Like Chris said, the number of stadium sing-alongs was also really fun. I typically hate that kind of thing. Everyone in a crowded bar shouting “Livin’ on a Prayer” is like my personal nightmare. But their great song choices included “Build me up Buttercup” and “Fireflies” and I loved every minute of it.
I had a blast on this trip. Obviously LSU was incredible, but it was well-within our comfort zone of being raised in Georgia. This was something totally new and different. Not to say Wisconsin is particularly exotic or foreign, but I just found it amazing to experience a completely different side of the college football universe that I’d only ever seen on TV. The food was awesome, the people were great, and the cold weather football was fantastic (just this once though maybe). I’ve had my eyes on Wisconsin ever since we dreamed up the concept of this tradition in the GT Waffle House and it was everything I’d hoped for it to be. We all agreed to bias towards a warmer climate for the 2022 trip, but I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed our venture to the Badger state. If I can make up a lot of ground in the standings this year I’m looking to visit the Big 12 next year - Texas here we come.
I”ll close out the summary in the same way I did in 2019: “Get yourself some fellas. They’ll make a ten hour road trip or flying from the polar opposite side of the country worth a day and a half trip.” After the rough time we all collectively had in 2020, it was good to be back together and feel like we didn’t miss a beat. We might have to take a break from the colder weather games, which as a reminder, are generally not amazing to willingly subject yourself to. As I’m currently leading the season standings that reward the winner with choosing the next year’s game, I’ve got my eyes on:
- The return of the Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh
- Penn State @ Auburn
- Red River Rivalry
- Miami @ Texas A&M
- Cincinnati @ Arkansas
- Arkansas @ BYU
- Utah @ Florida
- Alabama @ Tennessee
But for now, On, Wisconsin!