'It's the event of the evening': Cajuns see Wednesday game as huge opportunity

Nick Fontenot
Special to the Advertiser

The football week is supposed to follow a schedule.

Friday nights are for high school football. Saturdays are for college football. Sundays and Mondays are for the NFL.

That was a tried-and-true tradition until a few years ago, when Thursday night also became a football night. Heck, now every day is a football day. 

Even Wednesdays.

And this Wednesday in particular is a big football day for the Ragin’ Cajuns and coach Billy Napier. The Cajuns square up against Appalachian State in arguably the biggest game at Cajun Field in more than a decade. Playing a huge game on a Wednesday night can be looked at in several different ways, but Napier said he chooses to look at it as a positive.

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“It’s all perspective,” Napier said. “We look at it as a tremendous positive. It’s Wednesday night and probably the only college football game on TV in the entire country. It’s an opportunity to come out on a Wednesday night just as if Ali and I were going to dinner. It’s the event of the evening. Our students and our fans have an opportunity to represent this university by getting behind this team.”

The cheerleaders cheer on the Cajuns during the Sept. 14 game against Texas Southern at Cajun Field.

Fan support is a much-discussed topic, and Napier is always quick to thank the UL faithful who come out every game and support of the team. But the numbers have been lackluster thus far in 2019 — announced attendance was 16,231 against Liberty on Sept. 7 and 18,183 against Texas Southern on Sept. 14 — especially considering the team is 4-1, as talented as ever and playing an entertaining style of football.

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Napier hasn’t offered too much commentary on the lack of attendees, but he did say that the time to support the team is now.

“It’s time for people to show up and make a statement about how committed we are to this football team,” Napier said. "This a group of young men who are working their tails off. We are going to play on national TV and  — I think our fans realize this — but they can impact the game. We have made progress and each home game has gotten better. 

“But Wednesday night, our students and our fans on a national stage against a terrific opponent — it doesn't get much better than that.”

Cajuns linebacker Jacques Boudreaux said he experienced one of the best college atmospheres he ever experienced last weekend at Georgia Southern. The Cajuns won that game 37-24 and Boudreaux said it was fun to see what an involved student section is like.

“I thought the atmosphere at Georgia Southern was great and their student section was fired up,” Boudreaux said. “They were talking to us back and forth, and it fired us up. That would be huge for us. We would love to play in front of a packed house.”

More:UL's Boudreaux ready to make a statement vs. App State

Napier and Boudreaux both agreed, however, that the game is the same whether it’s Saturday or Wednesday or whatever day. The Cajuns get a few extra practices to prepare for a tough opponent in Appalachian State, and Napier said they’ll take full advantage.

“We definitely view it as an opportunity to get some extra days to prepare for a really good team, and we will need those days,” Napier said. “This is a great matchup between two teams that played twice last year and a rematch of the championship game. There is a reason why ESPN and the Sun Belt Conference chose this game to be on national TV.”

More:How Cajuns are prepping for redemption vs. App State

Regardless of the external talk about national TV and crowd sizes, Napier said the game will still come down to preparation and execution.

“We need to be fully present and in the moment to maximize all the things that affect how we play,” Napier said. “We can talk about all that stuff if we want to, but it will have nothing to do with what happens Wednesday night at Cajun Field. That is where our focus needs to be.

"You relish these opportunities if you’re a great competitor, and I think we have some young men who are becoming great competitors.”