The Wednesday update from Coach Michael Desormeaux revealed some new information regarding two Cajun starters. Defensive lineman Tayland Humphrey and running back Chris Smith are out for the Cajuns in the New Orleans Bowl.
UL Athletics (Dan McDonald) – Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun football team got to blow off some steam Tuesday not long after its arrival in New Orleans for Saturday’s R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
After a brief orientation meeting with New Orleans city and bowl officials, the Cajun student-athletes and staff took part in a welcome party at Shamrock Bar+Grill+Games on Carrollton Avenue Tuesday night. The evening provided some relaxation for the squad prior to Wednesday’s full schedule of meetings and an afternoon practice at the Caesars Superdome, in preparation for Saturday’s 8:15 p.m. contest against Marshall’s Thundering Herd.
Thursday will also be a full day of work – some football, some in service to the community to continue a tradition that’s been in place for many years at the New Orleans Bowl.
The Cajuns will depart their Sheraton headquarters hotel at noon to join staff and other volunteers of the Pontchartrain Conservancy to help that organization’s efforts to restore marsh lands and wetlands areas. The group will work for around two hours with clean-up, mulching, pruning, re-staking and straightening of marsh trees and plantings in an area of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, while also helping with clearing of marine debris.
The Pontchartrain Conservancy is a non-profit organization that aims to enhance and preserve the approximately 10,000-square-mile Lake Pontchartrain watershed, which touches 16 Louisiana parishes. The group is also involved with research, education and advocacy for conservation of the area.
While the Cajuns are doing their part for the wetlands, Marshall’s team and staff will be volunteering with Special Olympics of Louisiana at the Superdome and holding punt, pass and kick sessions as part of the bowl’s “Day of Service.”
A nearly two-hour practice will follow service activities for the Cajuns, insuring a full day of work. Things will lighten up for the squad on Friday.
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By the time UL takes the field late Saturday evening, the Cajuns will be the third of the four Sun Belt Conference teams to play their bowl game.
Bowl season opens on Friday with two games, one including Sun Belt member Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers (10-2, 6-2 Sun Belt) will make their second-ever bowl appearance and going for their first bowl win when they meet Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl in Orlando at 5 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2.
Prior to UL’s Saturday game, App State (10-3, 7-1) will make its seventh straight bowl appearance and will be going for its seventh straight bowl win. The Mountaineers, who won the Sun Belt East before losing to the Cajuns in the league championship game at Cajun Field, will meet Conference USA East Division champion Western Kentucky in the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl at 10 a.m. (CST) on ESPN.
The other Sun Belt bowl representative won’t play until Christmas Day, when Georgia State (7-5, 6-2) will make its third straight and fifth-ever bowl outing in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl. The Panthers will meet Ball State at 1:30 p.m. (CST) in the Montgomery-based game on ESPN.
The Sun Belt went 4-1 in last year’s bowl games, including UL’s win in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl in Fort Worth, and has put up winning bowl records in each of the past four years – 4-1 in 2017 and 3-2 in both 2018 and 2019. The Sun Belt’s four-year winning percentage of .692 (18-8) over the past four years is the best of any of the 10 FBS conferences.
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In part because of COVID restrictions that are still in place in New Orleans, many of the New Orleans Bowl’s outside activities have been curtailed this year.
One that hasn’t is the annual Ragin’ Cajuns Fan Fest, a staple in the Cajuns’ prior New Orleans Bowl trips in 2011-14 and 2016 and making a return this year The Alumni Association’s event is set from 2:30-6 p.m. Friday in the Sheraton New Orleans’ fifth-floor Grand Ballroom.
The event is free for fans, with food available ($10 for either sausage jambalaya or pulled pork and coleslaw) and a cash bar. Only cash will be accepted. Wayne Toups will provide the musical entertainment, and fans who have not picked up their tickets may do so at a Will Call table in the ballroom.
The highlight of that event will be UL’s annual Graduation Exercises, where members of the football team and party who have finished degree requirements this year will be presented their diplomas – a good gesture since they’ll miss this weekend’s regular graduation activities at the Cajundome. Approximate time for the graduation ceremony is 3 p.m.
The New Orleans Bowl is hosting a Friday pregame party at the Smoothie King Center next door to the Superdome from 5-7 p.m., prior to the NBA New Orleans Pelicans’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks. The pregame party is free but game tickets are required, and discounted tickets to the game for Cajun fans are available on the bowl’s web site.
In lieu of tailgating around the Superdome, UL’s Alumni Association and Iberia Bank/First Horizon will stage a pregame tailgate party from 5-7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Superdome’s Bienville Room. Nik’l Beer and the Storyville Stompers will provide music and food and drinks will be available for purchase. Admission is free, but fans are cautioned that those entering the Bienville Room just inside Gate B are actually entering for the game, so game tickets are required to enter and no exit and re-entry is allowed.
If those events don’t sound appealing, you’re on your own … but if past New Orleans Bowls are any indication, it’s a good bet that impromptu Cajun celebrations will pop up in or near the French Quarter on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. And if you’d like to add culture to your bowl trip, the Saenger Theatre just down Canal Street from the Cajuns’ hotel headquarters is staging the touring company of the musical “Cats” Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and a Saturday 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are still available for all shows.