Not a single vocal cord among the Huskie faithful was spared a night of absolute abuse as NIU fans did their best to turn Sun Life Stadium into Huskie Stadium South.
Before the game, there was a definite sense in the concourses of Sun Life Stadium that NIU might just have more fans on hand than Florida State¬†‚Äď no easy feat considering that FSU is less than one-tenth as far away, and the enrollment of the school is roughly double that of NIU.
But the evidence was indisputable.
Vast swaths of the parking lots could have been mistaken for the tailgate areas outside of Huskie Stadium because of the many red-and-black pop-up canopies, flags and other pregame paraphernalia.
As fans began streaming in, it was hard to deny that the number of red-and-black shirts in the crowd seemed to outnumber the maroon and gold of the Seminoles.
Questions as to NIU‚Äôs ability to ‚Äútravel well‚ÄĚ for a big time bowl were answered with a resounding ‚ÄúYes!‚ÄĚ The Huskie side of the stadium was a veritable sea of cardinal.
And the fans just didn‚Äôt look good; they sounded great, too. During pregame festivities, Florida State fans tried repeatedly to rev up their ‚ÄúTomahawk Chop‚ÄĚ chant, only to be drowned out time and again by cascades of ‚ÄúNIU! NIU! NIU!‚ÄĚ
Huskie fans set new standards for volume when the team took the field, and again when a paratrooper from the Air Force Academy came plummeting into the stadium (and nearly into the stands) with a Huskie flag trailing behind.
To the credit of all, the loudest cheers of the pregame came when the U.S. flag soared inside the stadium. Everyone, regardless of whose colors they wore, chanted ‚ÄúUSA! USA!‚ÄĚ for the red, white and blue.
Heck, NIU fans even cheered enthusiastically when a commercial for the Mid-American Conference played on the jumbotron.
More importantly, the Huskie loyal rose to the occasion over and over, lending their support to the defense in what seemed like an endless series of third down stands ‚Äď coming to their feet and doing their best to roar loud enough to disrupt the Seminole offense. And they did so whether their team was down seven or 21.
It was Huskie fans who actually jumped around during the fourth quarter when the stadium DJ played ‚ÄúJump Around.‚ÄĚ
Perhaps most impressively, the Huskie faithful rose as one late in the fourth quarter for one last rousing rendition of the Huskie Fight Song.
Even after the final gun, when Florida had sealed its decisive victory, the fans made sure that the national audience watching the game would not forget who had played, ending the night as they began it, chanting ‚ÄúNIU! NIU! NIU!‚ÄĚ one last time.