Thousands attend UCF tailgate before kickoff

Orlando Sentinel

Gameday at the University of Central Florida begins early - sometimes more than five hours before kickoff.

Students, fans and graduates arrive on campus by the carloads to find that perfect spot for tailgating. 

This week, No. 23 UCF (5-1) continues their season against UConn (0-6) Saturday at Brighthouse Networks Stadium, and so the traditions of gameday on campus will charge on as well.

The hours before kickoff are a special time at Florida's largest university.

"It's just a giant party," said former UCF student Brendan Costello before the UCF-South Carolina game earlier this season. "We have so many people here. It's amazing. I love it. Love it. Love it. Love it."

A UCF home game - only six a season - means grilled hamburgers, games of cornhole and black-and-gold cans of beer at the Memory Mall. It means women wearing UCF cowboy boots and men in UCF T-shirts gathering along Scorpius Street.

"If you haven't been to a UCF tailgate, you are really missing out," said UCF grad Amy Elwood of Oviedo.

Elwood rarely misses a UCF home game and often travels with the team to away games.

"It's fun to cheer on the underdog and see them conquer," she said.

When game time nears, the crowds make the half-mile walk past the CFE Arena and the charging knight statue toward the stadium gates.

Graduates, parents and fans crowd the seats and suites along the sidelides.

Students sit in the end zone of the 45,000-seat "Bouncehouse" - nicknamed because of all the jumping that goes on during Zombie Nation's song "Kernkraft 400."

If you've never been to a game, the floor actually moves. Scary, yes. Exciting, yes.

"The atmosphere is really good," said Rosinha Rosario, a native of Portugal who plays on the UCF Womens' Basketball team. Rosario attended her first UCF earlier this year.

"Everybody is happy...I like it," she said.

The pre-game excitement reaches its climax when the UCF players run onto the field and students - some covered in black and gold paint and others carrying "Go Knights!" signs - cheer for their team.

Moments later, kickoff. 

Charge on!

Gameday at UCF.

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