Photos: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs visits Univ. La. Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Louisiana Tech's Trent Taylor tries to avoid being tackled by Ragin' Cajuns defensive back Sean Thomas in September in Cajun Field.

LAFAYETTE — A significant chunk of the UL-Lafayette football team’s roster was hoping the New Orleans Bowl would be the postseason destination again.

Who wouldn’t want to go home for a week?

“It’s like half of the team going home,” said senior defensive back and Breaux Bridge native Trevence Patt.

It’s not quite half, but the Ragin’ Cajuns do have a load of players from the New Orleans area that will spend bowl week in their old stomping grounds.

Eighteen Cajuns played their high school ball in the New Orleans area, including starting receivers Al Riles (Lakeshore) and James Butler (Hahnville), running back Elijah McGuire (Vandebilt Catholic) and Sean Thomas (St. Augustine).

This will be the fourth New Orleans Bowl trip home for Butler and Thomas, both of whom are seniors. It’s not lost on Butler that he’ll end his career where it all started.

“It’s always a blessing to have another game, and … I’m excited on a personal level to end my college career in New Orleans, the place where I’m from,” Butler

Butler said the excitement of postseason play has never left, even as its become routine for the Cajuns.

He admitted playing in New Orleans for the fourth straight year has made it feel like part of the schedule. But that doesn’t mean playing in New Orleans has grown stale for Butler and the Cajuns’ other New Orleanians.

“In my opinion, because I’m from New Orleans, I would much rather go there, because I had always dreamed of playing in the Super Dome, and I was blessed to be there in the past three years,” Butler said. “It’s a great way to end my career.”

The search begins

Defensive backs coach Tim Rebowe, who accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Nicholls State last month, will remain with the team through the bowl game, but the search for his replacement has already begun.

“We’ll start interviewing people and moving forward in the search for our defensive back coach,” Hudspeth said. “Coach Rebowe will proceed coaching the (defensive backs) during the bowl game. That process will take place over the next three to four to five weeks.”

I’ll be home for Christmas

Count Hudspeth’s wife Tyla as one person happy to see the Cajuns back in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20.

“My wife’s excited, because the game is before Christmas,” Hudspeth said. “Now, you get to go have Christmas with your family instead of practicing through Christmas and through New Years.”

Ever the salesman, Hudspeth couldn’t help but make a pitch for fans to buy tickets.

“To me, it’s a great opportunity to give your family or your kids a great Christmas gift,” Hudspeth said. “Come on down to New Orleans for the week and come to the game.”

Early to bed, early to rise

Butler said he didn’t know about the New Orleans Bowl’s 10 a.m. start time until the day the Cajuns had accepted the invitation. His first reaction to the early start was probably similar to most people’s.

“Ten a.m.?” Butler said. “That’s early, man!

Those early kickoffs are so rare, Butler can remember the last time he played in one.

“Peewee football when I was 7 years old,” Butler said. “I had to wake up early just to get to the game. That was a long time ago.”