N.O. Bowl Update - Taking it to the streets

by Dan McDonald

It's a sea of red on the streets of the Downtown District as the Ragin' Cajun faithful slowly make their way to the Superdome for tonight's New Orleans Bowl.

[Editor's Note: Visit throughout the day for Dan's updates.]

N.O. Bowl Update Saturday, 12/17, 3:45 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS All the way through Friday, it was easy to find UL football fans in the Crescent City. They were the ones in red, traveling in groups and taking part in the organized activities of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

Saturday was a different story.

They're everywhere.

Before, it was at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street, or at Walk-On's on Poydras, or maybe a couple of other designated locations. Now, there's not a restaurant or bar that doesn't have some type of UL influence, and the red blob appears to be growing. It's like a constantly spreading amoeba, devouring whatever's in its path.

You can't walk 10 steps anywhere downtown without bumping into someone wearing "Ragin' Cajun" or New Orleans Bowl apparel.

There's still a big crowd at Walk-On's, where the Sports Radio KPEL group gave way to the Hot 107.9 crew beginning at 2 p.m. For the first time this week, the beer taps there they've got them built into each one of the sitting booths on a serve-yourself basis were getting a severe workout.

And the lobby of the Marriott was still jammed and loud. Former Cajun running back Thomas Jackson, whose 35-carry, 175-yard rush outing in the mud of the 1983 Homecoming win over La. Tech still ranks among the Cajuns' best-ever individual efforts, was looking for tickets a friend had

Bobby Champagne, Acadiana native, former UL assistant basketball coach and now head coach at North Alabama, stood out in the crowd at the Marriott in his purple UNA warmup. His team plays UNO Monday night, but he came in early in support of UL coach Mark Hudspeth, who had huge success as head coach at UNA earlier in his career.

But now it's not just at those locations. The Cajun Nation has taken over a lot of other places.

Acme Oyster House, just off Royal, had a line outside, and almost everyone in line wore UL jackets or sweatshirts (it's cooler than most expected Saturday afternoon). A big group of Cajun supporters were on a balcony over Café Maspero on Decatur Street, throwing beads.

Even the Riverside Hilton the headquarters hotel for the San Diego State Aztecs was filled with Cajun fans. Luke Mandola, owner of the semi-world-famous Ragin' Cajun restaurant in Houston, was holding court there. Long-time Cajun fan Gene Lognion was in the Hilton lobby, his laugh echoing off the walls. St. Thomas More athletic director Kim Broussard was sporting a "USL Ragin' Cajuns" warmup top  ("I'm old school," he was laughing) while having lunch and hopefully some charbroiled oysters at Drago's Restaurant inside the Hilton.

UL director of athletics Scott Farmer left the Marriott around 3 p.m. and headed for the Ragin' Cajun Athletic Foundation (RCAF) tailgate party at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He also had a list of a dozen different suites in the Superdome that are being used by the Cajun faithful tonight, and he planned to visit every one and there are probably more that he doesn't have on his list.

All the other tailgating and pre-game activities for the rest of the afternoon are in or near the Dome, so it's almost time to head that way. After all, it's only four hours until kickoff.