For Gopher fans, Saturday night's 20-13 win against Air Force was a chance to cheer on their team in a brand new, open-air 50,000 seat stadium, after nearly 30 years of watching home games off campus under the white teflon of the Metrodome. Fans started celebrating outside the new stadium, long before the Gophers took the field. Tailgaiting is now permitted in select parking lots on the University of Minnesota campus.
"Before we roll into the big game tonight, we're having some refreshments and dinner," said Shane Dore.
The dinner: rib eye steaks. The refreshments: cans of Heineken beer.
Dore, here with his wife and 20-month old son, is amazed the atmosphere is so vibrant even hours before the game starts. That's something he never saw before Gopher games at the Metrodome.
His tailgaiting buddy Jeff Gilbertson agrees.
"The victory walk today was absolutely packed two hours before the game at four o'clock, and to see everybody out here was absolutely great," he said. And while fans are excited about the new stadium, students are absolutely ecstatic.
Thousands of students stood in line for hours to get into their own dedicated section of the new stadium.
Once they make it past a security checkpoint with their tickets, they bound up a long stairway to the stadium's concourse, pumping their fists in the air and yelping as they meet up with friends.
Sophomore Sarah Henning says the new stadium has brought a rush of energy to the U of M campus.
"It's huge, and it was huge to just walk through Dinkytown and campus area, there were people here, they were all excited, singing the rouser," she said. "We got outside and everyone was already roaring with excitement before they were inside. It's totally amazing to walk from your house, five minutes later you see the building, five minutes later you're inside, it's amazing."
TCF stadium provides students bench seats behind the goal line, enough space to hold 20,000 people.
The seats fill quickly. It's no exaggeration to say that every single student at the game, thousands, were wearing Gopher maroon and gold.
Danny Wind and Anthony Krumin were part of the sea of team colors. The two freshmen echo what many say: good riddance to college football in the Metrodome.
"It's amazing," Wind said. "I've been going to games for, like, 13 years with my parents, so it's good to be finally out of the dome when I come here as a student, great timing."
Krumin agreed. "It's incredible to see the skyline and be in the fresh air. It's amazing with all the fans around."
For fans waiting decades for this moment just being here cheering on their team, provides plenty of excitement.
And it was just as thrilling for students who weren't even born when the Gophers were exiled to the Metrodome, like U of M sophomore Chesney Engquist.
"It's just wonderful awesomeness!"