DeKALB – If you didn't know better, you would think you were at the game itself.
Fans of Northern Illinois University football crowded watering holes including Fatty's Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway, and O'Leary's Restaurant and Bar, 260 E. Lincoln Highway, eager to see their beloved Huskies compete on the big stage against Florida State at the Orange Bowl on Tuesday.
And when it came to showing their feelings, they were anything but shy. They cheered at what they liked, and booed at what they didn't.
Dina Sweet, a DeKalb resident and NIU alumna, watched the game at Fatty's with two of her friends as a way to support her university and her cousin, who was at the game in Miami. Sweet was hoping for a Huskies victory Tuesday night.
"The underdogs should always win," Sweet said.
Fatty's was packed with people, including NIU alums Ryan Markowski and Nick Clauss, who arrived at Fatty's at 12:30 p.m. Markowski and Clauss drove to Fatty's from Belvidere and Chicago, respectively.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime game," Markowski said. "Hopefully it's not a blowout. Hopefully they win ... It's exciting to see them on the national stage."
Had they been NIU students, Markoeski and Clauss could have traveled to Miami via a student fan bus package, which took 1,300 NIU students by bus to the Orange Bowl for a multi-night stay at a cost of $150.
Jeff Marx, an NIU law student, was not entirely confident in a Huskies victory.
"It's reasonably possible for them to lose," Marx said just as the Seminoles scored the first touchdown in the game. "The question is, is it reasonably possible for them to win?"
Excitement for the game had been building for weeks in DeKalb. A number of local businesses posted signs cheering on NIU, while others offered Orange Bowl-related food and drink specials.
The enthusiasm was also building online. On Facebook, many NIU students and alumni posted messages showing their support and excitement. On Twitter, accounts operated by the university would tweet and re-tweet their own and others' messages of support.
Regardless of the outcome, fans such as Sweet and Angi Bergstrand said they were proud of the team because of all they had accomplished this season.
"They have nothing to be ashamed of if they lose," said Bergstrand, an NIU alumna and an employee in the university's Housing and Dining department. "At the start of the season, who would have thought they would have gotten here?"