TAMPA — The weather up North isn't exactly tropical these days, but for those who drove hundreds of miles to watch Friday's Outback Bowl, Tampa's atmospheric conditions hardly impressed, either.
"Every time I've watched the Outback Bowl on TV, it's always 70 degrees and sunny," said Tristan Morales, a 2006 graduate of Northwestern University, which played Auburn in Tampa's annual bowl game. "Why couldn't it be like that today?"
A cold front swept through Tampa Bay before the 11 a.m. game.
A persistent drizzling rain and temperatures in the 50s dampened the tailgating around Raymond James Stadium. But the partying went on anyway.
For Auburn fans, many whom live in Florida or in other Southern locales, the weather wasn't unexpected.
Jody Skinner, who graduated from Auburn in 1981 and now lives in Mobile, Ala., said she didn't mind the rain as she hung out with a classmate, Allison Matheny.
They nibbled oven-baked turkey and ham and sipped Bloody Marys and mimosas while snug under a tent awash in Auburn's orange and blue colors.
"I've had a wonderful time here," Skinner said. Her team won.
It was the Northwestern alumni, many of whom had trekked from the icy tundra of Chicago, who had hoped for balmier weather.
Rich Verduzco drove more than 1,100 miles from his home in St. John, Ind. When he left on Monday, it was 28 degrees and snowing.
"Today is a little rainy, so, yeah, it could have been better," said Verduzco, who graduated in 1989. "But we're used to terrible tailgate weather. This doesn't compare."
There was the freezing weather on Halloween for the Penn State game.
There was the torrential rain before the Indiana and Eastern Michigan games.
So for Verduzco and 21 of his friends and family members who hunkered under a tent emblazoned with Northwestern purple, life wasn't so bad. They munched on breakfast tacos stuffed with scrambled eggs and salsa.
"Actually, this is beautiful weather," said Dick McCarty, a 1977 grad who lives outside Chicago. "We're not complaining."
Then came the tequila shots.
"Go Cats!" they shouted as they clinked their plastic shot glasses together.
"Thank God for this tent," Verduzco said. "Gotta come prepared."