From the Bird’s Nest: Road Trip–Arkansas State
The original plan was to write about the only road trip by auto this season.
But, thanks to the fiasco after the Middle Tennessee trip and some heavy negotiating, this wound up being the sixth road trip by air for Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns this season.
The Cajuns have seven road games this year. And, I don't ever remember the Cajuns flying to all seven. When you have the third-smallest athletic budget in the FBS, the numbers just don't work out. And, therefore, the plan was for the team to bus to Jonesboro, AR for this past Saturday's game.
As it turned out, the Cajuns were playing for a conference title. And, a bus trip certainly wouldn't have been ideal.
Still, it probably wouldn't have worked out if not for what the Cajuns went through on the Middle Tennessee trip.
Allegiant Air is the carrier for the Ragin' Cajuns. And, after the misstep, they owed the University one.
Credit John Dugas, UL's Assistant Athletic Director for internal affairs. He started talking to Allegiant as soon as the Middle Tennessee trip was concluded. And, he was able to negotiate a price for the Arkansas State trip that made it possible for the team to fly.
So, instead of leaving at 9am Friday morning by car with Scott Prather and having lunch at the Dinner Bell in McComb, MS, it was off to the airport at noon for some Olde Tyme.
Because the trip was put together so quickly, there wasn't as big a crowd on the plane as their usually is. We boarded and got wheels up just after two pm. The flight was just under an hour to Memphis, where the team was to be headquartered.
The night before the game at Walk-On's, the venue for Mark Hudspeth's radio show, Hud's wife Tyla told me she had Reese's and Kit Kat, my two favorites, for the road trip. It's really nice when the candy lady keeps the radio guy in mind. I fell asleep on the plane, but Tyla gave the candy to Scott and told him to make sure I got it when I woke up. You can always trust a guy with diabetes not to eat your candy.
The team stayed at the Doubltree Hotel, Downtown Memphis. It's a great location. If you are into ducks, the Peabody Hotel was just a block or two away. And, Beale Street was just a block away. The hotel was right across the street from AutoZone Park, the AAA home of the Cardinals. There was a snafu upon arrival as the rooms weren't quite ready, which didn't make Coach Mark Hudspeth happy. It immediately threw off his itinerary, but he and the team adjusted and it all worked out.
Someone was scheduled to make the trip but cancelled and therefore there was an extra room. John Dugas gave the room to me and Scott and I wound up in separate rooms (which, I'm sure made Scott happy. I do have a propensity to snore.)
We, as always, headed up to Scott Farmer's room for refreshments of the liquid variety. My boss and his wife drove up from Lafayette (wow, the boss drives, I fly...life is good) and joined us.
It had been a long week and I was pretty tired, so I decided not to partake in the Memphis nightlife. While the travel party dispersed, I chose to remain behind. (Scott joined the boss and his party for ribs at the Rendezvous.) I had some pasta at TGIFriday's which was in the hotel and headed back upstairs for the night. I watched the Carrier Classic featuring North Carolina and Michigan State. While the game wasn't great, the atmosphere was. The game was played on the USS Carl Vinson. It's the same boat my nephew Cody was stationed on while he was in the Navy. And, on this Veterans' Day, it was special to watch.
Following the game I napped for awhile, then turned on the computer to check out the Cajuns' basketball opener against Northern Arizona. I listened to Steve Peloquin describe the action. I thought he did a great job. But, midway through the second half, it was obvious the Cajuns had things under control so I turned in for the night.
I woke up at six and did a couple of things on our website and then joined Scott Farmer, Greg Bourque and David Fontenot for breakfast at Dennys, which was a diagonal walk across the street from the hotel. Afterward, it was a shower and a 10:45 departure for Jonesboro, about an hour to the north.
Now, I give Jonesboro a tough time. But, truth be told, it's a nice city. It's grown considerably and is nearly 70,000 people. Their downtown area has undergone a revitalization. There are some good places to dine. And, although Craighead County is dry, many of the restaurants serve alcohol to "members," and memberships are easy to come by.
But one thing I've always said about Jonesboro. They have some of the nicest folks anywhere in the league and maybe in the South.
We got to the stadium and were treated warmly by everyone we saw. It was very windy and I really didn't want to spend much time outdoors. We went upstairs to set up equipment and got to visit with some of the people we always look forward to seeing when we head to Arkansas. Matt Stoltz and Bill Keely, ASU's broadcast crew were already there. We also got a chance to visit with Sun Belt Associate Commissioner John McElwain and Billy Ferrante, the executive director of the New Orleans Bowl. Billy is really excited about the thought of the Cajuns in the Crescent City and although he was non-committal, it was pretty obvious he was looking to the Cajuns as the Sun Belt representative to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The godaddy.com bowl reps were there as well. It's no secret they'd really like to have Arkansas State.
Pregame meal was pretty good: Pulled pork, mac and cheese, cole slaw and fried okra. I wasn't horribly hungry after the big breakfast, but I made sure I got some of that.
During the game, a semi-streaker went onto the field. He faked out one police officer and was doing a pretty good job of avoiding some others. But he slipped and when he saw the tasers, got very docile. Good move. He was clad in just boxer shorts. And as he was led away, he had a wardrobe malfunction and his shortcomings were evident. Photographers got the shot for posterity, not that anyone would ever want to see it again or anything.
It was the normal postgame. There was a television in the press box and we saw the end of the Boise State-TCU game. Kickers....two years in a row. We had Popeye's chicken strips while Daryl Cetnar and Jeff Schneider finished their work and then it was off to the airport. We got back to Memphis with perfect timing. A quick security check and we were on our way. When the plane landed in Lafayette, I got my bag and headed to the car. I listened to the Oregon-Stanford game on the way home.
I was home before ten. I love afternoon road games.