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Twin City sights and sounds from some of Saturday's parties taking in the ISU Redbirds' championship matchup with North Dakota State:

11:50 a.m. at ISU's Cardinal Court theater room, Normal: Sophomore Stephanie Perez of Round Lake has staked out a second-row recliner, waiting for her boyfriend and for the game to start. The projector hasn't warmed up, so there's pre-game audio, but no video on the large screen.

"I'm not like a super fan, but I really love sports, so I'm really excited to see what's going to be the outcome," she says.

Student workers are carrying in boxes of chips, water and pizza as complex coordinator Quanisha Kumidarfour hopes the projector does its job.

"Worst-case scenario," she says, "we'll go watch in the lobby."

12:15 p.m., parking lot of Pub II, Normal: Junior communications major Natalie Starrenburg of Huntley and three friends shiver in ISU sweatshirts and leggings, trying to decide where to go after bouncers find a problem with Natalie's ID card.

She's upset, even though her friends alternately console her and blame themselves. Acknowledging the group will need to split up, they text friends to check locations.

Starrenburg explains that her brother is a good friend of an ISU player, so she really wants to watch the game.

12:28 p.m., intersection of Empire Street and Fairway Drive, Bloomington: Stoplight turns red as ISU makes first touchdown. Coincidence?

12:35 p.m., Pheasant Lanes Bowling and Miniature Golf, Bloomington: Owen Nelson, 2½, sings the ISU fight song for a table of family members. Corrie Nelson of Normal, whose husband, Anthony, manages the bar, says her son learned the song from his babysitter, whose parents are long-time season-ticket holders.

Melanie and Jim Johnson of Bloomington, both ISU alums, are "praying and sending their good vibes" to the team.

"It's the best underdog story," Melanie says.

"It's been a hard-fought season," Jim adds.

1:05 p.m., multipurpose room of Westminster Village, Bloomington: Dozens of people sit in rows of plush chairs, watching two giant television monitors.

Walkers sit against a back wall, near a table filled with ISU pompoms, alumni pins and scrolled signs.

A chorus of "ah's" rumbles through when the Redbirds botch a play in the second quarter.

Marge Irving, now retired from the ISU College of Continuing Education, followed "a little bit" of the season but wants to watch the game. Her husband taught at ISU and her three children are graduates.

"This is great. This is fantastic," says former Downs resident Don Jones, one of the few not dressed in cardinal red. "I'm really proud of ISU."

Organizer Joe Talkington, who retired from ISU in 1991, says about 25 Westminster residents either graduated from or worked at ISU. "This (the watch party) just happened," he says.

Stephanie Sellers, development director for the College of Arts and Sciences, brought son Owen, 11, and daughter Zoe, 9.

"We're not fairweather fans," Sellers says.

1:30 p.m., downtown Bloomington: Police Officer David Quinn is on Center Street, patrolling in his squad car while listening to the game on radio. "They just need to pass and catch at the same time," he says.

1:45 p.m., Elroy's, Bloomington: The downtown bar is standing-room only, filled with adults, parents, alumni and students. Fans on the second floor hang over a railing to watch one of many big-screen TVs.

"I texted my dad," says ISU senior Mackenzie Carpenter, an interior design major from Palatine. "I said it's probably one of my coolest moments of my college experience. You never thought of it happening."

Senior Kristin Schmidt, also of Palatine, agrees. "It's exciting as a senior. It's a dream come true."


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