The football cheerleaders couldn't get over it. They had to cheer in freezing weather in their short blue-and-white pleated skirts and, get this, bare legs. How cold was it in Delaware, where Howard University's Bisons beat Delaware State's Hornets?

"I could not pronounce," Lian Breland, 20, a Bison cheerleader, said. "My mouth would not move."

But the 12-7 victory, the team's first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title in years, was worth it, she said. "When we all catch pneumonia and die, we'll still think it was worth it."

"We are truly proud," said Lorna Cole, 20, another frozen cheerleader.

Busloads of cheerleaders and die-hard fans and alumni arrived back at Howard last night to a campus that, on the surface, appeared to be shut down by the cold. But the night was still young, and soon the partying would begin "everywhere available," said Kenneth Newsome, 18, a red-shirted freshman.

"We won?" Thomas Pierre Jr., 20, yelled in the lobby over at Lucy Diggs Slowe Hall when he heard the news. Whatever the game's outcome, a dual-purpose party already had been planned: part post-game frolicking, part Thanksgiving charity fund-raiser.

At George Washington Cook Hall, the athletic dorm, alumnus Gawin Blue, 30, of the Class of '76, recalled what for him was the smoothest moment of yesterday's game, when quarterback Lee DeBose was hit but still managed to pitch the ball to running back Harvey (Silk) Reed.

"It was exciting," he said.

There were even alumni from many years past, such as Ike Hill, Class of '44, who said, "From the half, it was an excellent game."

Indeed, the game was memorable. "It was cold. The coldness is what will make me remember the game," said Paul Woodruff, 18, a freshman.

Despite the elements, post-game excitement ran at a fever pitch for Howard's fans. In Dover, Del., at the Bisons' locker room, "Everybody was standing outside screaming and hollering for 45 minutes," said Sheila Jones, 21, a senior.

The red-shirted freshmen returned to campus on the bus with the rest of the fans. For them, the victory meant getting off to an even better start in their college football careers.

"You had to be there," Newsome said. "After the game, I broke down in tears. It was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling."

Asked if the victory meant the Bisons were part of the "big time," Rich Perry, 22, said, "We are big time, always been big time."

The students planned to unwind, hang out and wait for the players to return. Then would come the time to gloat.

"We're gonna party, somewhere. We'll go the clubs and say H.U. had a victory," Breland, the cheerleader, said.