Time is not on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ side this week, but they hope they can prepare well enough to at least make it a non-issue.
A bit of cross-country travel and a late kickoff made later by playing in a different time zone are obstacles Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth is aiming to overcome with a slight change in pregame routine.
The Cajuns couldn’t do much different during the school week but, once Thursday hit, they started prepping themselves to play later in the day. They swapped their usual Thursday afternoon practice for a practice under the stars.
“There’s a little bit different dynamics waiting until that point in the day to practice after you’ve had a long day, so we want to work on that mental clock, starting that mental motor and that physical motor later in the evening rather than 2:30 or 3,” Hudspeth said.
The Cajuns will get one last morning practice in on their home turf Friday before they make the 31/2-hour flight to Boise, Idaho. There, they’ll get settled into their hotel before going through another late-night walkthrough.
Coaches will allow the players to stay up much later than their usual 10:30 p.m. curfew. They’ll also let the players sleep past their usual Saturday morning wake-up call.
It’s all part of an effort to mentally and physically prepare the Cajuns to start the game at a time when they’re usually already finished.
For the Ragin’ Cajuns to outplay Boise State this week, they’ll have to first outsmart their own bodies.
“We’re just trying to make sure we can prepare our guys any way we can to give them an advantage,” Hudspeth said. “Whether it’s emotionally or mentally they get it, or if it does work physically to get their body clocks going at 8:30, because it’s different.”
There’s more that goes into it besides simply tricking your body into thinking it’s earlier than it really is.
The added time between wake-up and kickoff means the Cajuns will get an extra meal. Normally, the Cajuns eat breakfast or brunch and a quick pregame meal.
With the late start, the Cajuns will have to find a way to keep their mental edge as the hours drag on and on. Worse, the added hours sometimes make it impossible for the players and coaches not to over-analyze the game they’re about to play.
“It gives me ulcers to sit around and think about everything all day long,” Hudspeth said. “For the players, it’s walkthrough, walkthrough, walkthrough. Then, as a coach, have we got everything ready? Have we worked this enough; have we worked this enough? Then you’re watching games on TV, and the punter gets it snapped over his head in the game you’re watching and you’re like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ ”
Senior linebacker Trae Johnson doesn’t foresee that being a problem, especially with the amount of preparation the Cajuns are putting into the game. He remembers preparing for two New Orleans Bowls that started at 8 p.m. — and another that started at 11 a.m.
“I’ve played in early games, midday games and late games,” Johnson said. “It’s all about how you approach it.”
The team also must strike a balance between being prepared and messing with their natural rhythm, and the routine they’ve grown accustomed to over the course of the fall.
But Hudspeth is quick to point out that routine hasn’t really worked too well as the Cajuns have gone 1-2 out of the gates. And as his team practiced under the lights at Cajun Field for the first time on a Thursday, Hudspeth liked what he saw.
“I told the team after practice that we might need to start doing this more often,” he said. “We had our best Thursday practice of the year. Hey, if it works this week, trust me, we’re going to have to do it again. Because it was good.”