Special Feature: 2013 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

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Journey to Jacksonville

Relive the excitement of the Wildcats' historic Gator Bowl victory

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January 1, 2013
By Matt Paolelli and Brendan Cosgrove

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

'Cats Win! - 4:30 p.m. EST

The Wildcat faithful waited 64 years for this moment, and when victory appeared imminent, a surreal euphoria set in quickly. Was this really happening? Kain Colter took a knee in victory formation, and it was officially in the books: Northwestern University defeated Mississippi State University 34-20 to become the 2013 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl champions.

Coach Pat FitzgeraldThe 'Cats played a fantastic game of football, but the recap of the X's and O's can't quite capture the Purple Pride that instantly erupted on the field, in the stands and wherever members of the Northwestern community were watching the game around the world. After time expired on the game clock, the football team immediately ran over to a corner of EverBank Field for the traditional postgame victory serenade of "Go U! Northwestern" with the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band (NUMB) and the fans. As you can see in our Game Day photo gallery, Northwestern had strong support in Jacksonville from passionate fans who wear their NU love right on their sleeve...or their purple wig...or their purple suits. It was a truly historic day and a wonderful start to 2013. It's a great time to be a Wildcat! Happy NU Year!

Gator Bowl Game Day - 9 a.m. EST

Happy NU Year!The new year dawned sunny and warm in Jacksonville, and Northwestern fans, despite many having painted the town purple to a late hour the night before, rose early and ready to cheer on their ‘Cats against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

Around 1,000 alumni and fans from around the world gathered at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena for the Northwestern Alumni Association’s pre-game tailgate. NUMB, WildPride, Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips and University President Morton Schapiro pumped up the crowd over breakfast before heading to EverBank Field across the street.

In the stadium parking lots, many fans made new friends and/or renewed old acquaintances at their own tailgates while basking in the warmest weather seen during the trip to North Florida.

 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Painting Jacksonville Purple – 3 p.m. EST

 On Monday afternoon, purple-clad Northwestern fans lined the streets of downtown Jacksonville to cheer on members of the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band and WildPride spirit squad as they marched in the annual Gator Bowl Parade. Chants of “Go U! NU!” reverberated through the street as NUMB played the school fight song and other tunes.

Immediately after the parade, Wildcat fans made their way to Jacksonville Landing for the Northwestern pep rally. Lining both levels of the shopping and dining complex, purple-clad fans of all ages enjoyed performances by NUMB, Willie the Wildcat and the cheerleaders, as well as remarks from athletic director Jim Phillips, and University President Morton Schapiro. The crowd also watched a video about the new athletics and recreation complex to be constructed on the shores of Lake Michigan on the Evanston campus. Check out our photos from the parade and the pep rally on our Gator Bowl photo gallery on Facebook.

Wildcat fans are spending a festive New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville, but plan to call it a night earlier than usual to be in top shape for Gator Bowl kickoff at noon Tuesday. Go ‘Cats!

Fireworks



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Welcome to Jacksonville - 7 p.m. EST

President SchapiroAs the sun set over the St. John’s River Sunday evening, alumni and fans participating in the official Northwestern Alumni Association bowl tour were welcomed to Florida by President Schapiro, University Trustee and NAA President Dan Jones, the marching band, members of the WildPride Spirit Squad and Willie the Wildcat.

“One of the goals of the University’s strategic plan is to increase engagement,” Jones said. “Your being here is exactly what that is all about.”

Those in attendance were treated to a rousing performance of NUMB classics such as “Hey, Baby,” “Go U! Northwestern” and the University alma mater.

As the reception ended, many fans were headed out to enjoy the Jacksonville nightlife.

NUMB Gets Numb in the Atlantic - 2 p.m. EST

NUMB gets numb in the oceanOn Sunday afternoon, the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band took a break from pre-Gator Bowl rehearsals to head to the beach at Jacksonville’s Kathryn Abbey Hannah Park. The NUMB students enjoyed a catered lunch of southern-style barbeque and played frisbee and a game of beach volleyball.

Despite frigid (at least by Florida standards) temperatures in the high 40s, some brave souls were determined to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Most said it felt warmer frolicking in the water than standing around on the beach.

Band members capped off their afternoon by marking the beach as ‘Cats territory. See more photos of the ocean-front fun in our Gator Bowl photo gallery.

'Cats on the Beach


Exciting Athletics Facilities News - 10 a.m. EST

Today dawned in Jacksonville with some great news for ‘Cats everywhere. At Tuesday morning’s TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl pep rally, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro will formally announce an unprecedented series of gifts -- more than $55 million -- in support of a campaign for athletics and recreation.

In honor of the lead gift from Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan, the University will name the fieldhouse in the new multi-use athletics and recreation complex the Ryan Fieldhouse. The new facility will be located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the north end of Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

Additionally, the field located inside the fieldhouse will be named Wilson Field in honor of a significant gift from Stephen R. and Susan K. Wilson.

See our complete story for more information on this exciting announcement.



Saturday, December 29, 2012

NUMB lands in JacksonvilleA wave of purple descended upon Jacksonville today, as the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band and cheerleaders, as well as various other students, alumni and staff, arrived to prepare for the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. Leaving the snowflakes behind at Ryan Field, the contingent of Wildcat fans sang the fight song as the plane took off from O'Hare International Airport and stepped off the plane and into the sunshine after landing. There are already a lot of Wildcat supporters showing their Purple Pride around Jacksonville, and many people dining and shopping in the city's Riverwalk district Saturday evening are sporting Northwestern gear.

While everyone is enjoying the city's attractions and the warmth of the Florida sun, lots of preparations are being made for the various events leading up to Tuesday's big game, too. NUMB spent the afternoon rehearsing their halftime routine and will be performing several times in the coming days at events such as Monday's Northwestern pep rally and the Gator Bowl parade through the streets of Jacksonville. Head over to their blog to read all about it.

Northwestern Athletics and the football team have been in Jacksonville for several days, participating in Gator Bowl events and taking in the city, while also practicing for Tuesday's matchup against Mississippi State. Check out the Gator Bowl tab on their Facebook page for daily updates.

We will continue to update our bowl coverage on this page, so check back frequently! If you are journeying to Jacksonville and tweeting about your adventures, tag your tweets with #JaxCats so we can follow along and share your stories. Take a look at our Gator Bowl photo gallery on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, too. We'll keep the updates coming! Go 'Cats!

Jacksonville sunset