Saturday was anything but a normal game day for the Central Michigan football team.
While CMU has traveled to a road game on the day of the contest before, especially for Mid-American Conference games within easy driving distance of their Mount Pleasant campus, Saturday was a different experience.
Ordinarily, the Chippewas would have made a 2-hour, 45-minute flight to Baton Rouge early Friday afternoon for Saturday night’s matchup with LSU in Tiger Stadium.
But Central Michigan learned two weeks ago that its hotel rooms in Baton Rouge were needed for Louisiana residents who remain displaced by Hurricane Ida, as well as first responders and emergency personnel.
So, the CMU team awoke Saturday and began the trip south at 9 a.m. EDT, starting with a 27-mile bus ride from their campus to the airport in Midland, Michigan.
It became apparent something had shifted on LSU’s first offensive possession in a 49-21 win Saturday night.
Central Michigan then boarded a chartered aircraft that departed at 10:30 a.m. for a 985-mile flight and touched down in Baton Rouge at 12:15 p.m. CDT, associate athletic director for communications Rob Wyman said.
The Chippewas then bused to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, arriving at 1 p.m. The team and traveling party were able to set up in ballrooms to meet and make final preps for the game, then had a 2:30 p.m. pregame meal.
After that, the buses departed for the stadium around 4 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
“We got bounced around a little bit,” Wyman said, “but we knew a couple of weeks ago this was probably going to happen.”
He said head coach Jim McElwain was especially understanding of the situation.
“Mac said a lot of people down here were going through a lot worse stuff,” Wyman said before kickoff. “They have residents that may be out of electrical power for six weeks, so it was a small inconvenience.
“The LSU athletic department was fantastic; they did everything they could to help us,” he said. “We all understand what’s important, why we didn’t have hotel rooms."
Immediately following the game, the Chippewas were to shower and dress and head straight to the airport as they normally would after a game, Wyman said.
He said the team was expected to return to campus about 4:30 a.m. Sunday — which could end a 19½-hour day.
Despite the extra-long day, Wyman said the first part of the trip to CMU’s first meeting with LSU was pretty uneventful.
LSU honored the loss of running back coach Kevin Faulk's daughter, Kevione, on its helmets during Saturday night's home game with Central Michigan.
“It was fine … there were no logistical problems,” he said. “Last season, we traveled on the day of the game for all three of our road games. But that was partly because of COVID.”
Those games were played at Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Toledo — which required a total of 1,262 miles by bus for all three contests.
Like last season, there wasn’t any griping on the Chippewas’ part Saturday, Wyman said.
“Our kids are pretty flexible,” he said. “They’re good kids.”