After five years, University of Illinois was finally selected to go bowling! This year we traveled to the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, California—our first bowl game since the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2014.
Despite the long trip, huge crowds of optimistic Illini fans poured into Levi’s Stadium on December 30th to watch Illinois face off against the University of California, Berkeley. I was fortunate to be one of these fans who watched Illinois history in the making. Even though the game didn’t work out in our favor this year (with a final score of 35-20), the sheer amount of orange and blue lining the stadium proved that Illini have a spirit like no other.
As a brief disclaimer, if you’re looking for a detailed report of the game using a bunch of technical football jargon, I am not qualified to write that. I don’t know much about football, but I can tell you the story of my experience at the Redbox Bowl.
My trip started off as I boarded an airplane with dozens of other Illinois students, alumni, and fans. This trend continued as we spent a day touring San Francisco and heard people chanting “I-L-L” and “Oskee-wow-wow” countless times around the city. The Marching Illini performed at a pep rally alongside the Cal band at the Embarcadero Plaza in San Francisco, where orange and blue far outnumbered the blue and gold.
As the day continued, we ran into Illinois fans almost everywhere we went. A whole car full of people even shouted “Go Illini!” at us as we were walking down the street. This all reminded me that no matter where you go, there is almost always a connection to the University of Illinois in one way or another, and that being a part of the Illini community really builds those connections.
On the topic of connections, we took a break from the bowl game festivities to make a sightseeing stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, which was built by a U of I civil engineer. I had a lot of fun geeking out at some of the bridge science exhibits around the park and was very excited to learn that an alumnus of my very own department contributed to such an iconic project.
On the day of the game, Illinois fans came from far and wide to fill the stadium with Illini spirit. After following Illinois football for a few years, I’ve learned that our games are not always about the victory but about the spirit. That’s something that was strikingly clear at our bowl game this year. People of all ages from all different parts of the country came to cheer on our team and share in our traditions, and I think that’s pretty amazing. Between the supportive fans, a performance by the amazing Marching Illini, and an exciting game, there was a lot to love about the Redbox Bowl this year, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next year.