LAFAYETTE — It’s finals week — a challenging time for any college student — but for the Louisiana-Lafayette football team, it’s also the beginning stages of bowl preparation for a game that’s a little more than a week away.
So, how exactly do the Ragin’ Cajuns balance preparing for final exams and their most important game of the season, a New Orleans Bowl matchup with Nevada on Dec. 20 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?
While it may seem like the players are facing a daunting task this week, many felt their football preparation is more of a welcome respite than a distraction from their studies.
Senior right guard Daniel Quave did not have to take a final this week but, as a fifth-year senior, he has been through the process enough to know there’s a blissful separation between studying and bowl prep.
“Football can be a sanctuary if you allow it to be,” he said. “You can come out here to a place of peace, because we’ve done this since we were little; we can do it with our eyes closed. So there shouldn’t be any unnecessary stress on you anyways.”
That sentiment rings true with senior tight end Larry Pettis, who looks at practice and preparation as an outlet to free his mind from the drain of his studies — one that not all students have at their disposal.
“I actually think, for us (football players), it’s less stressful,” he said. “We get to come over here and relax and have fun. Regular students that don’t do that either procrastinate all day and try to cram for finals or spend all day thinking about how they’re going to learn their stuff.”
Just go to a local coffee shop and watch a group of college students study to see the truth in that statement. Computer screens flip among Facebook, Buzzfeed and PowerPoint presentations. Other dreary-eyed and over-caffeinated students go over the same material for hours on end, hoping that it’ll stick.
Football players certainly aren’t immune to that, but some lessons from the daily football routine apply to school.
“They teach us how to manage our time with everything,” Pettis said. “We get plenty of time; the coaches never take away any study time from us, because they want us to graduate and have good grades.
“When you come here, it’s football time. When you leave, it’s time for you to get your grades and study like you’re supposed to.”
Balancing football and class requirements is made easier by a coaching staff that doesn’t put too much on the players’ shoulders during exam week. The team is only practicing twice during exam week — once Wednesday (when the school did not have any exams) and again Friday (after the completion of exams).
With only two practices in the days immediately after they learned their opponent, Hudspeth said his players aren’t as far advanced in game preparation as they would normally be with a little more than a week until kickoff. But at this point of the season, they probably don’t need as much fine-tuning.
“It sort of hampers your preparation early a little bit but, after an 18-week season, they need a little time away also,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “You want them anxious to play in the game, anxious to get to work. This has kept us able to stay sharp enough to get into game week, which will begin Saturday, and we can put exams behind us.”