Louisiana-Lafayette’s football team has held only two workouts since learning that the Nevada Wolf Pack would be its opponent in next weekend’s New Orleans Bowl.
The Ragin’ Cajuns coaching staff, though, has logged many more hours of preparation, and coach Mark Hudspeth said that his staff’s video-strained eyes keep coming back to one player.
“Cody Fajardo is just a very talented quarterback,” Hudspeth said Wednesday during the Cajuns’ bowl media day activities at the Moncla Indoor Center. “A guy that can hurt you with his legs and throwing, he just makes that system go.”
Fajardo, a four-year starter for the Wolf Pack, is one of two players in FBS history to rush for 3,000 and pass for 9,000 yards in a career. The other is former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
This season, Fajardo is 3 yards short of his second 1,000-yard rushing season, and has thrown for 2,374 yards and 18 touchdowns. He rushed for 143 yards — leading three 100-yard Nevada runners — and a score and threw for three more touchdowns in the Wolf Pack’s 49-27 season-ending win over in-state rival UNLV.
Hudspeth said Fajardo is in a similar role as his quarterback, Baton Rouge senior Terrance Broadway, in operating the offensive unit.
“Both of them do a lot of things well,” Hudspeth said. “It’s actually a similar system in some ways. We’ve seen a lot of dual threat kids this year, and they all create a lot of problems.”
Talkin’ about practice
The Cajuns held a lengthy practice session Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m. to match kickoff time for next week’s bowl game. The squad worked out Sunday evening, only a couple of hours after the announcement of their Mountain West conference foe, and took off Monday and Tuesday for fall semester final exams. The team will also not practice Thursday.
“The only way we got to work out today was that there were no finals,” Hudspeth said. “We’ll come back and walk through Friday evening and then get after it Saturday at 10 a.m. again.”
Hudspeth said Wednesday’s workout was more intense than those to come over the next nine days.
“Times like today, we got back after them a little bit,” he said. “But practices leading up to the game will be a little lighter, we’ll try to have a little more fun with them.
“The bowl’s got to be a reward. If you’re going to bring them out all day and practice for five hours, and holler and scream at them, that’s not much of a reward for going to a bowl. We want to make sure they have a good time, but be prepared and be anxious to play, and I think they’re anxious.”
Breakfast at the Dome
One thing many of the Cajuns aren’t anxious about is the 10 a.m. kickoff for the postseason’s first bowl game.
“That’s kinda crazy,” said defensive back Sean Thomas, who had two interceptions in last year’s New Orleans Bowl against Tulane. “We’ll be up early. We just have to lock in and stay focused. It’s a business trip.”
Hudspeth added: “I would rather play early, but that’s a tad early. To me a perfect kickoff time would be 11:30 like we did against Troy. But when you get to wake up and go play on national TV, in the Superdome in a bowl game, it ain’t hard to wake up. It’s hard to wake up at 5:30 to go run the stadium in June, but it’s not hard to wake up and go play a bowl game.”
Athletic director Scott Farmer said that the fourth year for his team in the New Orleans Bowl, the 10 a.m. kickoff and a shortage of reasonably-priced hotel rooms due to the New Orleans Saints playing at home the next day may keep the crowd below last year’s record 54,728.
“We want to see as many tickets through our office as we always have,” Farmer said Wednesday. “The total attendance may not be as high, but that doesn’t change our goal.”
Farmer said UL-Lafayette will hope to sell in the 18,000 range through the UL-Lafayette ticket office as they have in the past three years, and encouraged Cajun fans to buy through that outlet. “We don’t get credit for any tickets sold anywhere else,” he said, “even if they’re Cajun fans.”
Off the field
The Cajuns have taken advantage of entertainment opportunities during New Orleans Bowl trips, and Hudspeth said that will continue. The squad will spend its first night in the Crescent City on Tuesday at the New Orleans Pelicans game against the Utah Jazz. Hudspeth will be handing the ceremonial opening tipoff and the team will sit “right behind the Pelicans bench,” he said.
The team will also visit the NOLA Motorsports Park along with other bowl activities, including the Friday luncheon. Merrill Hoge will be guest speaker for the luncheon at the Marriott.
“I gotta go big again, since I’m already home.”
—Senior cornerback Sean Thomas, a St. Augustine graduate who had two interceptions in last year’s 24-21 win over Tulane.