New Orleans Bowl Central -- The weather's changing, and Blaine will play

by Dan McDonald

A cool snap makes it seem more like football season at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, where UL's Ragin' Cajuns will find a way for last year's bowl MVP to see action. Thursday, 11 a.m.

The weather has turned in New Orleans, and something more akin to football weather will be greeting those arriving here Thursday and Friday for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

The warm - or borderline hot - weather of Tuesday and Wednesday gave way to a storm line that blew through the city overnight, and temperatures have already dropped a dozen degrees and winds were blustery out front of UL's Marriott headquarters hotel Thursday morning.

"When we went out to practice yesterday (Wednesday), I was having flashbacks to August," said Ragin' Cajun offensive coordinator Jay Johnson. "It felt like we were getting ready to start fall practice."

The weather won't have an effect on the squad's preparations for Saturday's game. UL's Thursday and Friday practices are inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Cajuns will face East Carolina at 11 a.m. Saturday in their second straight bowl appearance.

Last year's New Orleans Bowl outing included a record-setting performance by then-junior quarterback Blaine Gautier, whose 470 passing yards and three touchdowns helped him win Most Valuable Player honors. This year, though, Gautier is reduced to a limited role, after a broken wrist suffered against FIU knocked him out of action for two-thirds of the season.

Sophomore Terrance Broadway has done yeoman work in stepping into that role (Broadway led the Sun Belt Conference in total offense in league games).

"It's a big credit to Blaine and his maturity in how he's handled it all," Johnson said on Sports Radio ESPN 1420's morning program from the bowl. "I talked to him right when it (his injury) happened, and said that this team needed him. He's handled it well, he's been a team guy, and credit him for that because we really needed him to do that."

Gautier had thrown for 236 yards against Oklahoma State one week before going out of the FIU game - one in which he had thrown for 86 yards and a score in just over one quarter.

"The bad thing was that he was starting to play the best he'd played all year," Johnson said. "The first one and a half quarters against FIU, he was playing lights out."

Gautier will still see some sort of action on Saturday, but head coach Mark Hudspeth has been tight-lipped on exactly what that role will be. Gautier worked some with the first unit during Wednesday's practice session.

"I promise you Blaine Gautier will play in the New Orleans Bowl," Hudspeth said. "He certainly will."