LAFAYETTE — After nearly two weeks of waiting, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette learned the identity of its Dec. 17 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl opponent Sunday night when the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation announced the Cajuns will play San Diego State.
The Aztecs (8-4, 4-3) from the Mountain West Conference finished the regular season Saturday with a 35-28 win over Fresno State.
The game will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
ULL, also 8-4, completed its Sun Belt Conference schedule with a 6-2 record. The Cajuns are playing in their first bowl game since 1970.
The announcement of the school’s bowl opponent brought some finality for ULL first-year head coach Mark Hudspeth.
“We’re going to play a real good opponent in San Diego State. We’re also excited right now, to finally find out who our opponent is going to be.
“Now that we know who we are playing, it’s going to add clarity to our preparations,” Hudspeth said by telephone Sunday night.
In a sports information department news release issued by email Sunday night, ULL Athletic Director Scott Farmer said San Diego State should create a well-attended New Orleans Bowl matchup.
“The Mountain West Conference is a very deep football conference and its teams are in the national spotlight all year.
“They (the MWC) also have the best bowl-winning percentage in the FBS,” Farmer said in the release.
According to the release, the Cajuns have already sold 15,000 tickets for the New Orleans Bowl. Farmer said he also expects San Diego State to bring a big crowd.
“San Diego State averaged 40,000 fans per game this year. I anticipate a good crowd for this game,” he said.
Hudspeth said he sent text messages to his players after he received a phone call from Farmer informing him of the Cajuns’ opponent.
“I immediately received a lot of return texts from the players. They, of course, were excited to learn who we are playing,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said he wasn’t totally surprised by learning the Cajuns will be playing San Diego State.
“I sort of heard their name being mentioned in the past couple of days as one of the possibilities. I’m glad to be playing them. They’re a program with national exposure and they play and travel well,” he said.
The Cajuns won’t begin practicing for San Diego State until Wednesday, Hudspeth said.
ULL’s players are engaged in fall semester examinations on Monday and Tuesday.
After Wednesday’s workout, ULL will return to the practice field on Friday, following the last day of exams, said Hudspeth.
San Diego State is in its first season under coach Rocky Long, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator last season. Before that, Long was the head coach at New Mexico from 1998-2008.
The Aztecs won their first three games this season and ended the 2011 regular season with four victories in the last six contests.
BOWL TICKETS: ULL has announced three outlets for purchasing New Orleans Bowl tickets through university sources.
Those interested in buying tickets can go to school’s athletic website, RaginCajuns.com, the M.L. “Tigue” Moore box office or call 337- 851-2011.
AZTEC NFL CONNECTIONS: Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe is the quarterbacks coach at SDS this season.
New Orleans native and ex-NFL running back Marshall Faulk, played his college football at San Diego State.
SUN BELT TRIO: ULL is one of three Sun Belt Conference teams earning bowl invitations.
Arkansas State (10-2), which won the regular season title to finish 8-0 in the conference, will face Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 8 in Mobile, Ala.
Florida International (8-4) will meet Marshall on Dec. 20 in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl set for St. Petersburg, Fla.