Fans send football team off to New Orleans Bowl
LAFAYETTE — Ragin’ Cajuns fans cheered on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team as players boarded buses Tuesday and departed for their third consecutive New Orleans Bowl game.
Supporters gathered near Cajun Field to grab lunch from food trucks and greet the players for a Cajun Walk at 12:45 p.m. before the team headed to the Crescent City, where the Ragin’ Cajuns will face Tulane University on Saturday night in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
“This year’s bowl game is going to be bigger than ever,” said coach Mark Hudspeth. “I think it’s going to be 65,000-plus in the Superdome. I think it will be one of the biggest attended bowl games in the country. That says a lot about our fans and the way they stupport our program.”
The team will hold two practices at the Superdome and one at the New Orleans Saints’ facility, but they’ll also have free time to attend events and enjoy the week together in the city, Hudspeth said.
“I think the guys are ready to get to New Orleans and start having a little bit of the bowl fun,” he said. “Once you get to the bowl site and start getting to go to events and get some of the bowl gifts, then I think they start to realize, ‘Wow, what a great reward for a good season.’ ”
Andre Huval, a senior center for the Cajuns, said he expects a fun week and a definite victory on Saturday.
“It’s always been a great trip,” he said.
“We get to play Tulane. They’re an in-state school, kind of a rivalry game. We’re going to have a lot of fans, so it should be fun.”
After coming off two losses, the Cajuns are hungry for a win to end the season, said senior linebacker Justin Anderson.
“We need to execute better,” he said. “Everybody on the defense needs to do their job and worry about getting their job done and know the guy next to them will get their job done, also.”
Anderson added that he is looking forward to seeing the Cajun crowd at the Dome.
“I love our fans,” he said. “I love it every time we get to play in front of them.”
Kirk Schexnaider, a UL-Lafayette alumnus, attended the Cajun Walk with his two sons and said the family will be at the bowl game on Saturday.
“This is our third trip, and we’re very excited,” he said. “It’s a good thing. All the fans should be there. The number should still be great.”
“Cajun fans are loyal,” said Gerald Landry, a former football player and assistant coach at UL-Lafayette. “We’ll take the good times; we’ll take the bad times. Since we have Hud, we have it all.”
Abbeville resident John Oppenheimer said he has been a Cajuns fan for more than 30 years and plans to attend the bowl game for the third year in a row.
“The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are going to do great against Tulane,” he said.