Football: UL, Tulane to meet in New Orleans Bowl
Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, Dec. 4, 2013
On Tuesday, they had an opponent as well.
Still, Cajun coach Mark Hudspeth called the circumstance of facing a bowl opponent on its own field “sort of odd.”
“We sort of like to call the ’Dome our home stadium for the last two years when we played,” said Hudspeth, whose Cajuns went to the Superdome to beat San Diego State in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl and East Carolina in the 2012 New Orleans Bowl.
Hudspeth welcomed the challenge nonetheless.
“To find out we’re playing a great opponent like Tulane just to me adds to the bowl game,” he said.
Tulane will be making its 11th bowl appearance, and its first since beating Hawaii in Hawaii in 2002.
UL has won just five of 26 meetings with Tulane in a series that started in 1911.
But the Cajuns snapped a four-game losing streak to the Green Wave in 2012, when they won 41-13 at Cajun Field during a season in which Tulane went 2-10.
“Coach (Curtis) Johnson has done an incredible job of getting their program back on track,” Hudspeth said, “and they have had an exceptional year.
“He’s done a great job, and they’re only gonna get better.”
But the Green Wave has lost three of its last four, falling to Florida Atlantic, Texas-San Antonio and Rice. It also had September losses to South Alabama and at Syracuse.
The two teams’ only common opponent so far is ULM, which beat UL 31-28 last Saturday night at Cajun Field.
“Should be exciting,” Hudspeth said of facing a Tulane team that will be making its first New Orleans Bowl appearance. “But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
UL still must play its regular-season finale Saturday night at South Alabama.
Hudspeth said his players wouldn’t talk about the bowl until after that game, and after getting initial reaction out of the way he said he wouldn’t discuss it the rest of this week either.
He did, however, address the question of other bowls showing interest UL.
Suitors were the Sun Belt-affiliated GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, which instead wound up with Arkansas State for a third straight year, and the AdvoCare V100 (formerly Independence) Bowl in Shreveport, which has not yet determined its matchup.
“We’ve had two other bowls that wanted us … but it was not to where we could say, ‘Okay, it’s a slam-dunk; we’ll take it,’ ” he said. “With all three bowls, this is the very first invitation that really, truly came.
“Some other bowls, obviously, we (were) on their radar. And they wanted us. But they were trying to put all the pieces together. … So, sometimes you’ve got to take a bird-in-hand – and this is a pretty good bird-in-hand.
“What you didn’t want to get into,” Hudspeth added, “was a deal like I think Louisiana Tech got into last year – waiting around, seeing what else is available, everything closes up.”
Louisiana Tech didn’t accept Independence Bowl invite right away last season, and wound up going nowhere.
This year, the Shreveport bowl did want the Cajuns – but only if the contractually tied SEC couldn’t provide an opponent to play an ACC team and also only if at-large Notre Dame turned it down first.
Had UL waited and ended up in Shreveport, Arkansas State could have gone to New Orleans instead of back to Mobile and the Sun Belt could brag about having a bowl home for a third member.
Instead, the conference is still waiting to learn if it can place a third team from a pool of six currently bowl-eligible.
“There was a lot of interest from Shreveport … a lot of dialogue each way … but what it came down to is they’re not making a decision until next Sunday,” UL athletic director Scott Farmer said through SID spokesman Brian McCann on Tuesday night.
“They had a big-name school they were interested in, and they were going to wait until they found out one way or another from them until they came our way, and the bottom line is we had to move on. We didn’t want to be left without a bowl.”
The Cajuns, meanwhile, were New Orleans’ top preference all along.
New Orleans Bowl president/CEO Jay Cicero said after extending the bid Saturday that attendance history was a big reason UL received a third straight invite.
More than 42,000 attended the Cajuns’ 2011 bowl win and more than 48,000 attended the 2012 victory, and in both cases the overwhelming of those at the Superdome were UL faithful.
But fan support isn’t the only reason the Cajuns, who had an eight-game win streak before losing to ULM last Saturday night, are bowling again in New Orleans.
“It is a significant part of the equation,” Cicero said. “However, if the Ragin’ Cajuns would be, at the end of the season, 6-6 this year, I don’t think they’d be coming back.”