Tigers, Green Wave headed to new bowl destinations
LSU has never been west of Texas for a bowl game. Tulane has never played in a bowl game in the Eastern time zone.
That is, until this year.
The 11th-ranked Tigers will head to Arizona and the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl to take on undefeated UCF on New Year’s Day, while the Green Wave will meet an in-state opponent in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Dec. 15 in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
For both programs, Sunday’s news marks a significant accomplishment, besides the destination.
LSU hasn’t played in a New Year’s Six bowl game or its predecessor, a BCS bowl, since losing to Alabama in the BCS national championship game in January 2012.
Tulane is playing in its 12th bowl game all-time and gets to make a bowl trip for the first time since it made the long flight to the 2002 Hawai’i Bowl. As for the Ragin’ Cajuns, they will leave the state for a bowl game for the first time ever, after making five trips to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
As Green Wave coach Willie Fritz discussed his first bowl team at Tulane Sunday afternoon, much of the conversation was about who would be calling plays.
Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Alex Atkins will serve as interim offensive coordinator for the Cure Bowl, Fritz said. There is no specific timetable for hiring a permanent replacement for Doug Ruse, whose departure was announced on Tuesday.
Fritz and the staff will also have to, for a good reason, juggle the recruiting schedule. The Cure Bowl falls on the final weekend prior to the early signing period, which begins Dec. 19.
Still, Fritz said he expects to sign a full allotment of 25 players during the early period. As of Sunday, 10 players have verbally committed to the Wave.
“We’ve gotten a really good response (from recruits) to our season,” Fritz said.
Even though Tulane has not faced conference rival UCF the last two years during its 25-game winning streak, it is intimately familiar with LSU’s bowl opponent.
“I wish UCF would have had an opportunity to make the (College Football Playoff),” Fritz said. “They’re a good team. I remember when we played them my first year, I was very impressed with the athletes they had. Coach (Scott) Frost did a great job and Coach (Josh) Heupel’s done a super job.
“Coach Ed (Orgeron) and his staff are going to do a great job of preparation, but they’ve got a good ballclub they’re going to be playing.”
For Tulane, which went 6-6 in the regular season, the Cure Bowl is the difference between a winning and losing campaign.
“That’s a big deal,” Fritz said. “I told them, getting prepared for this game and playing the very best we can and winning the game is first (priority), then it’s second, then it’s second, then it’s third, then it’s fourth, then it’s fifth.”
Fritz reached his right hand down to the bottom of the podium.
“Having a good time, that’s down here,” he said. “We want to go out and represent Tulane University and our conference the right way.”
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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…