Cajuns, Cougars provide neighborhood matchup for I-Bowl

CAJUN COMBO:  Sophomore quarterback Chandler Fields and freshman running back Dre’lyn Washington helped UL-Lafayette pound Texas State 41-13 to become bowl eligible. (Photo by BEN MASSEY, RaginCajuns.com)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Pairing Louisiana-Lafayette against Houston brings regional appeal to the 46th Annual Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl set for the Friday before Christmas.

Both fan bases have an easy drive into Shreveport. Local fans don’t have to look on a map to see where the teams call home. There’s even a Ragin’ Cajun restaurant in Houston, and plenty of Astros fans in Lafayette. While the Cajuns and Cougars haven’t met in football in 16 seasons, they will stage their 10th collision in the I-Bowl, and in other sports, they often square off.

Lafayette and Houston are cornerstones in the region’s oil patch, with plenty of common business interests.

The only drawback? You’ll have to look closely to ID the school the red-clad fans are supporting.

Kickoff for college football’s 11th oldest bowl game is set for 2 p.m. CST on Friday, Dec. 23 at Independence Stadium. Bowl pairings were announced Sunday afternoon.

Houston (7-5) got hot down the stretch with an explosive offense producing wins in five of its last seven games during its last season as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Cougars make their long-desired return to the Big 12 in 2023-24.

UL-Lafayette, led by first-year head coach (and former quarterback) Michael Desormeaux, finished the regular season blowing out Texas State to post a 6-6 (4-4 SBC) record to become eligible for a school-record fifth consecutive season. Desormeaux was offensive coordinator for the other four under Billy Napier, who just wrapped his first season at Florida.

“We are so excited about the opportunity to play in the Independence Bowl,” Desormeaux said. “Our team is truly appreciative of the opportunity to play in such a great game. We are fired up for this team to get one more game together. Playing it in our home state makes this even more special.” 

The Ragin’ Cajuns had four players selected to the All-Sun Belt first team, the second-most in the league, and 11 players overall made the all-conference team. ULL defeated three bowl-bound teams this season. This is the 10th bowl appearance for the Ragin’ Cajuns in school history – all coming since 2011.

Dana Holgorsen is finishing his fourth season at UH, with a contract extension until 2027 on his $4 million annual deal. He played at Iowa Wesleyan as a receiver with head coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach, two major influences on his approach.

The Cougars, led by first-team All-AAC quarterback Clayton Tune, were among the nation’s premier offenses, scoring 30-plus points in 11 of their 12 games. Houston went 5-3 in AAC play. The Cougars are competing in their 15th bowl game in the last 18 seasons – the most in the state of Texas in that span – and 30th in the history of the program.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to compete one more time as a football team and end this season with a win,” Holgorsen said. “The Independence Bowl has a great tradition going back several decades. This game means a lot. I know our guys will be ready to play and we look forward to the challenge of facing another good football team.”

It is the first appearance in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl for both programs.

Public tickets are on sale and are $30 for end zone bench, $45 for sideline bench and $65 for a limited quantity of sideline chairback seats. There are also a bevy of other ticket packages available – including group tickets, Family 4-Packs, Small Business Fan Packs and the exclusive Chairman’s Club.

For more information on tickets visit RadianceTechnologiesIndependenceBowl.com/tickets or call the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl office at 318.221.0712 or toll-free at 888.414.BOWL.

Independence Bowl Foundation Survey:  The Independence Bowl is conducting a survey about both the Independence Bowl Foundation and Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl in order to improve the organization. The bowl asks that fans, both locally and regionally, complete the survey and provide feedback on various aspects of the Foundation and bowl. To complete the brief survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/2022_Independence_Bowl_Survey                           

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com