When the UL Ragin’ Cajuns lost to Tulane 41-24 in the Cure Bowl last December, it did quite a few things.
Immediately, it kept coach Billy Napier from producing a winning season in his first campaign as head coach in Lafayette.
It also gave the detailed planner plenty of sleepless nights mulling over all the many things that didn’t go right in the bowl week schedule.
Some players learned the hard lesson that bowl week isn’t really about partying.
No single Ragin’ Cajun football player is more excited about the start of the 2019 UL season than Joe Dillon.
Others used the humbling setback as motivation to work even harder during the offseason.
One thing it didn’t do, however, was alter the long-term jewelry plan of senior linebacker Jacques Boudreaux.
“At this point in my career, I wanted to have a bowl championship ring,” Boudreaux said. “I wanted to have a ring.”
Boudreaux, though, still won’t consider a Plan- B to add a UL keepsake for his dresser when his college career ends.
“As a veteran guy, that’s something that’s constantly on my mind to leave this university with a bowl ring,” he said. “I didn’t order a college ring. I told my dad, ‘Dad, we’re going to get a bowl ring.’ That’s the goal — to win a bowl championship and get one of those rings.”
They can laugh about it now.
Certainly, the boxscore wasn’t a pretty one. Tulane won the first downs battle 28-11, outrushed the Cajuns 337-84 and dominated time of possession 40:31-19:29. UL’s offense punted seven times.
“It gave us fuel,” senior guard Kevin Dotson said. “We think about it more. We think about how we lost that game and how we lost to App. State. We think about it, so that we can use it. We need to learn. You need to know why you need to learn, because you don’t want to get beat like that again.”
Senior wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley got the motivating message from the loss loud and clear.
“It forced us to work harder and not take any day for granted,” said Bradley, who was limited to two catches for 51 yards in the loss. “We were just out there in Florida having fun, not focusing. It reminded us that we went there for a reason and to stay level and when the opportunity comes up again, we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Whatever the reason for the subpar effort, rest assured Napier will study other alternatives if the 2019 season produces a second opportunity.
“I was pleased with how we ended the regular season,” Napier said. “There’s no question we started competing at a higher level. We learned how to prepare. We learned how to practice. We learned how to do the extra. We learned how to compete and respond within a game.
“I was not pleased with how we played in the bowl game. I’ve spent lots of time researching that two-week turnaround, realizing if we play this year that’s something that could happen again.”
It was the first day of camp.
In the mind of UL strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke, there’s more than the distasteful memory of the loss to remind the Cajuns of the many lessons available from it.
“We have a west championship banner in the indoor,” Hocke said. “To me, that’s a reminder that we didn’t finish and we didn’t accomplish everything we were after last year. So to me, that’s more of a second-place prize and not how we want to finish as an organization.”
If any of the Cajuns have any doubts during the August heat, they only need to chat with sophomore defensive tackle Zi’Yon Hill.
“I tell them (teammates) all the time, I have a chip on my shoulder,” Hill said. “We didn’t win the conference championship. We came short of two rings last year, so that’s the chip on my shoulder. Also, I felt like we weren’t as good last year as we could have been, but I feel like this year, we’re going to be right.”