The Ragin' Cajun hotel headquarters is also ground zero for New Orleans Bowl activities on Friday, the last day before all thoughts turn to football on Saturday at the 'Dome.
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N.O. Bowl Update Friday, 12/16, 10:30 a.m.
NEW ORLEANS For those leaving Acadiana and on the way to this weekend's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: The New Orleans Marriott is the place to be on Friday.
Almost all of the "official" bowl activities are either being held in the UL headquarters hotel at 555 Canal St. or will be close by, and events being staged by the university are also being held in the hotel confines.
The most notable of the bowl activities are the annual New Orleans Bowl luncheon which begins at noon at the Marriott. Players from both UL and San Diego State, the teams involved in Saturday's 8 p.m. contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, will be honored and recognized at the luncheon, and former New Orleans Saints defensive back Darren Sharper will be guest speaker. Tickets for the event are still available to the general public and will be on sale at the door.
The Marriott is also the starting point for Ragin' Cajun fans to join up with the bowl's major night-before activity. The "Friday Night Free-For-All" is scheduled from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Riverwalk's Spanish Plaza located at 1 Poydras Street, with live music by the Rebirth Brass Band and the popular Lafayette band Givers. Bands from both schools will also participate in a "battle," and food and drink will be available for purchase.
Cajun fans can make the short walk from the Marriott to Spanish Plaza as part of a "second line," with the UL group falling in line behind a jazz band and departing the hotel at 5:15 p.m.
Fans don't have to wait until then to get into the bowl spirit, though. Only about an hour after the noon banquet, an adjacent ballroom will open for "Ragin' Cajuns Fan Fest," which will feature live music by Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin' Cajuns along with complimentary beverages. Activities begin there at 3 p.m. and will continue until time to head to the "Free-For-All."
CAPS AND GOWNS, TOO: Fans taking part in the "Fan Fest" will also be able to honor five members of the UL team who have completed graduation requirements. Those five cornerback Dwight "Bill" Bentley, linebacker Le'Marcus Gibson, tight end Ladarius Green, wide receiver Andrew Joseph and offensive guard Kyle Plouhar will don cap and gown and receive their diplomas from UL president Dr. Joseph Savoie at approximately 3:30 p.m.
GEOGRAPHIC FAVORITE: The Cajuns are a five-point underdog on the official betting lines despite the close proximity of the school to Saturday's bowl game and the likelihood of a heavy home-field noise advantage. But San Diego State coach Rocky Long says geography also has something to do with the Aztecs being the betting-line favorite.
"We're the favorite because we live closer to Vegas," Long told reporters during Thursday's media day activities.
OTHER QUOTES: Things that people are saying this week during the buildup to Saturday's game:
"Tim Rebowe, I think, is the best recruiter in the state of Louisiana." UL head coach Mark Hudspeth of his assistant coach and long-time Louisiana coaching fixture, one of three holdovers from the previous Cajun staff, when asked about how the bowl appearance will help recruiting in the state.
"I just grew it for the year. Guys in our offensive line decided to do a non-shave season, but some of them have fallen by the wayside. I'm going to shave when we get back it'll be a nice Christmas present for my mom." San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley, whose full red beard is approaching Santa Claus-like proportions.
"Athletics in and of itself is an emotional thing, and you have to be enthusiastic about it. That's one of the great advantages that a good athletic program brings it lets people engage themselves and get involved." UL president Dr. Joseph Savoie, who joined the UL band and many Cajun fans in Thursday's late-night "second-line" parade that marched down Canal and Bourbon Streets.
"You've got to think of it as just a football game. Sure, it's in the Dome and that's great, and we're having a lot of fun, but we know we're here to play a game Saturday." Cajun quarterback Blaine Gautier, who played in the Superdome as a high school standout when he led Lutcher to the 2006 state Class 3A title.
"Did you all just decide to have a parade?" unnamed Bourbon Street patron from Cleveland, Ohio, who watched the Cajuns' "second-line" march with the UL band and fans Thursday night.
"If you don't go to work with that in the back of your mind, you don't have a lot of pride in what you do. We definitely used that as a motivation with our guys." Hudspeth, when asked about his team's low national ranking 118th and 120th out of 120 FBS division teams in two different preseason college football publications.
"An athletic program and a university with the rich demographics of Lafayette shouldn't be lying dormant for many years. We've got a commitment now, and now that we've got that, it's all upside." Gerald "T-Boy" Hebert, member of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors and notable Ragin' Cajun fan.
"When most teams go out there, they're hoping they get the onside kick. When I go out there, it's a disappointment for me if we don't. This team, the way they believe, we know we're going to get it." UL kicker Brett Baer, who with his teammates is an impressive 3-for-3 in onside kick recoveries this year. Baer is an unheard-of 6-of-8 in successful onside kicks in his career.
"I had to drive to Lafayette last week to buy some shirts. There weren't exactly a lot of them available in Baton Rouge." Andrea Pourciau, a UL grad, Breaux Bridge native and Baton Rouge resident who with husband Andre were on hand at Walk-On's on Poydras Street Thursday night.