TAMPA — Amid a sea of orange and blue outside Raymond James Stadium, brothers Mason and Tucker Nitardy, ages 10 and 12, donned blue and white face paint and Penn State football jerseys as they hustled through the tailgating crowd.
Stopping for a moment with a group of family and friends, Tucker, wearing a puffy wig, held a cowbell and used a drumstick to tap out a simple beat as Mason and others joined him in chanting:
The boys were among a sizable Penn State Nittany Lions fan base that turned out Saturday for the Outback Bowl. Inside the stadium they would soon be drowned out by fans of the opposition, the University of Florida Gators, whose team charged to victory.
The game tapped into a large reservoir of alumni from both schools who live nearby and were more than happy to attend a bowl game so close to home.
For UF alum and Tampa resident Dan McBreen, 34, having the Gators play at Raymond James made the bowl a must-attend event.
"Gator football in Tampa? Are you kidding?" McBreen said. "They should do this once a year at least."
McBreen, who took in a beanbag toss game with a group of five fellow Gators, said the game was his New Year's celebration.
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Fans from both sides noted the significance of the bowl as the final game for Gators coach Urban Meyer.
"I do admire Urban Meyer because he's an outstanding coach," said Chuck Wall of Oldsmar, president of the Penn State Alumni Suncoast chapter. "He has kept class at UF."
Wall and his wife, Cindy, also a Penn State alum, said the bowl attracted more than a hundred local Penn State alumni who were more than pleased to have their team play in Tampa.
"All my work acquaintances and friends are Gator fans," Wall said. "We respect them, we're in their country. When you travel, you don't make fun of the locals."
Not far away, under a tent topped with a Penn State flag, UF alum Kim Tyson sipped mimosas with friend and Penn State alum Stu Rosenburg.
Both veterinary professionals, Tyson and Rosenburg brought with them a van of party supplies. Inside the van, they treated a friend's bad back using acupuncture — a specialty of Rosenburg's South Tampa veterinary practice.
"It's so going to be a long day," Tyson said. "What we want is a good game."