Len Bast traveled 2,500 miles from his home in Bethlehem, Pa., to Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Bast said that when Akron qualified for a bowl game, many fans were hoping to go to Florida. He wasn’t disappointed that they ended up in Boise, where temperatures hovered in the 30s and snow flurries fell in small bursts.
“I wouldn’t trade this place for anyplace in the world. This is a terrific town,” he said, noting that he’s traveled all over the U.S. “The people with the bowl have been so nice to the kids.”
Just generally speaking, if I had to live anywhere else, I would consider living in Boise.
Akron fan Len Bast of Bethlehem, Pa.
Bast and his family — he posed for photos with five of them at halftime — were part of the announced attendance of 18,876 for the bowl game, held on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium. That attendance mark is the third-lowest in the bowl’s history, and the stadium seemed even emptier than that.
Kickoff was at 1:30 p.m. In an unscientific poll on Twitter, half of the people who responded said the main reason they didn’t go to the game was because they were working.
Weather conditions were wintry, but less extreme than in the past. Bowl-goers came prepared. Most were dressed in multiple layers, with hats and gloves, and some wrapped themselves in blankets.
“Weather-wise, this is better than it was a few years ago. This is a heat wave compared to that,” said Randy Robins, a Utah State alumnus and fan who drove up from Logan. The Aggies played in the bowl in 2011 and 2012 as well.
Few people enjoyed the game more than Bill Lendvay, who moved to Boise for a job in 1997 — after earning his degree in electrical engineering from the University of Akron.
“This is pretty awesome,” said Lendvay, who works at Micron. “I’ve never seen my own school go to a bowl game.”
It was a historic win — Akron’s eighth of the season, the most since the school moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1987. It was the team’s first bowl victory as an FBS team.
Some at the game had no allegiance to either team.
“I wish there was more fans,” said Kuna resident Leslie Gates, casting a glance around the stadium. “It seems kind of empty. It’s kind of sad.”
She and her husband came into some free tickets. They brought their five children, who range in age from 2 to 14. The kids were delighted to see Spuddy Buddy, the bowl’s dancing mascot.
“He keeps the babies entertained,” Gates said.
Bands from both universities traveled with the teams, and they sat in opposite corners of the east side of the stadium. The bands were loud and rowdy, adding a lot of energy to the atmosphere.
Dressed in fatigues, Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Nowland, a recruiter, watched the game with a couple of colleagues. They planned to talk to potential recruits at halftime.
Nowland, who grew up in Nampa and is a Boise State Broncos fan, said he was rooting for Utah State to win.
“It makes the Mountain West (Conference) look better,” he said. In October, the Aggies rolled over the Broncos 52-26 in Logan.