There was no contact, blocking or tackling Friday as Louisiana-Lafayette’s football team went through a different kind of preparation.
Friday’s two-hour morning workout on the Cajun Field turf served as a full-scale “mock” game, giving the Ragin’ Cajuns a chance to rehearse before next Saturday’s 6 p.m. opener against Southern.
“We did the whole thing,” UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth said after his team wrapped up fall camp. “It was a total dress rehearsal. We worked on substitutions offensively, defensively, in the kicking game, getting the right people on and off the field and going over situations that we’ll see. There’s a lot of things that you have to cover before that first game.”
The Cajuns went through their pregame meeting and stretching and on-field warmups, worked on entering the field in waves by position and on leaving the field both pre-game and halftime, and even did their postgame ritual of gathering in front of the band and the student body.
“Our freshmen have learned the alma mater,” Hudspeth said, “so we wanted them to sing it one time live on the field. A couple of our seniors normally go up on the rail and lead the team with the band and they did that. I think they’re ready ... a good way to close camp.”
The squad will have Saturday free and will return to begin game week preparations Sunday evening. The previous three practices featured work against scout-team groups mimicking the visiting Jaguars.
“It’s just about all in,” Hudspeth said of the game plan for the opener. “Next week, we’ll start back over again from square one, and that will make installation a lot easier because we’ve all been working on it for the last three days.”
Hudspeth said the experience of his team has made for a less physical preseason camp.
“It was a little bit different because we had so many returning starters,” he said. “So many of our guys have played in 25, 35 college football games, they’re used to that. If we had a very young team we’d have to scrimmage a lot to get those guys used to blocking and tackling and the speed of the game.”
Noise? What noise?
If Hudspeth was looking for distractions to better prepare for his team’s first appearance in Cajun Field this year, he had it during Friday’s dress rehearsal.
During the 90-minute on-field session, cement trucks were unloading in the south end zone as part of final work on the new seating sections. On the stadium’s east side, staff members were installing padded chair back seats at new season ticket locations. The new scoreboard on the north end flashed throughout the session and music blared from both stadium speakers and extra speakers at field level.
“The stadium looks like it’s just about ready, the Jumbotron’s ready,” Hudspeth said. “I hope now the football team will be ready, because I know the fans will be ready Saturday.”
The work crew installing the padded seats over the bleachers of season ticket sections P and Q in Cajun Field Friday included Athletic Director Scott Farmer, associate athletic directors John Dugas, Rob Stewart and Jessica Leger, assistant athletic directors Eric Maron and David Faber and sports information director Matt Sullivan and staff.
“That’s what this university is all about,” Hudspeth said. “It’s people that are willing to do the little things. We have a lot of unselfish people that are willing to do a great job and make a great fan experience for our fans.”
The two east side sections are for new season ticket holders, and as season tickets are purchased the padded seats and chairbacks are added. Hudspeth said he’d personally get involved with final-week season ticket purchases.
“Anybody that buys a season ticket over there, I’ll go personally strap their seat in,” he said.
Three observations of note from Friday’s practice:
1During the “mock” series, the anticipated starting 22 on offense and defense were all at their expected positions. Barring a game-week injury, the goal of a healthy Cajun team entering the opener has been reached.
2Hunter Stover handled every placement — kickoffs, PAT’s, field goals — during the mock game. It appears he’s locked own that role for the opener.
3Mark Hudspeth’s voice sounded strained on occasion through the bullhorn. “It’s been like this for a while,” he said. “It probably won’t recover until January.”