Badgers fans adapt to football season opener during pandemic

The Wisconsin Badgers kicked off their season against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Friday night, Oct. 23. Without fans in the stands to cheer them on due to COVID-19 precautions, the season-opener experience looked a little different.

As cardboard cutouts sit in the stands at Camp Randall Stadium, living, breathing Badgers fans headed to bars to watch the game despite warnings from health officials about an ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

"I have no problem with bars, as long as you're complying with the state guidelines," said Badgers fan Lawrence Adams.

Meanwhile, leading up to the game, Badgers players took to Twitter to urge fans to avoid watching this season's action in crowds.

"Oct. 23 is the starting line, and we want to make it to the finish line. We'll do our part to play our hearts out for you. We just need you to do your part," said Badgers cornerback Rachad Wildgoose, a junior.

Champps Americana in Brookfield is hoping to do just that. The restaurant kept Friday's game off the TVs to keep crowds from forming at the bars -- a decision that drew mixed reactions from fans.

"I don't feel like being around crowds right now is the right thing to do, and I want to keep myself safe, I want to keep my friends and family safe," said Badgers fan Travis Schwantes.

Cardboard cutouts in the stands at Camp Randall Stadium

"That's an overreaction. You can still have a 25% capacity," Adams said.

Some took their spirits to go on Friday night, watching the long-awaited season kickoff from home.

"I'm definitely going to be watching it at home in front of my fireplace with a beer," said Schwantes.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android.

For fans, like Adams and Schwantes, the outcome on the field offered some good times even if it couldn't be shared with a large group of fellow Badgers backers.

Wisconsin won the game 45-7 for an undefeated start to the season.

Wisconsin wallops Illinois 45-7 in season opener

Mertz set a school record for completion percentage on 20-of-21 passing, finishing with 248 yards and a record-matching five touchdowns.