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Team Report - LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

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INSIDE SLANT

Travel expenses for the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will be at a minimum this year.

Hometown Tulane will face Louisiana-Lafayette, which is only a couple hours or so drive west on Interstate 10 from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Green Wave (7-5) and Ragin' Cajuns (8-4) will meet Dec. 21.

The Cajuns, who had to settle for a share of the Sun Belt Conference title with Arkansas State after losing their regular-season finale to South Alabama, will be making their third straight appearance in the bowl that was first played in 2001.

But the Green Wave hasn't been in the postseason since 2002, when it beat Hawaii in the inaugural Hawaii Bowl.

Tulane also will be playing a bowl game in its hometown for the first time since 1940, when it lost to Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl. Tulane also played in the first Sugar Bowl in 1935, beating Temple.

"I was telling the team earlier today that you guys are blessed, that a bowl like the New Orleans Bowl is a fantastic place to have a bowl," coach Curtis Johnson said at the press conference for the announcement. "It's home.

"You get the opportunity to play in front of all of your family and all of your friends. I just want to thank the New Orleans Bowl."

In his second season, Johnson was rewarded with a three-year extension to his contract, which will run through 2020, after engineering the turnaround from a 2-10 record in 2011. If the Green Wave beats the Cajuns for an eighth win, it will match its win total for the previous three years combined.

Mark Hudspeth performed a similar revival with the Cajuns, taking over a team that was 3-9 in 2010 to a record-tying nine wins in both 2011 and 2012.

The Cajuns capped both of those seasons with victories over San Diego State (32-30) and East Carolina (43-35) in the New Orleans Bowl.

Despite losses in their last two games, the Cajuns can get to the nine-win level for a third straight season with a victory over Tulane.

"We won a conference title in just our third year together and we are going to our third straight bowl," Hudspeth said. "The negative people can get off the train and the positive ones can join me in New Orleans because we're going back to a bowl."

Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette have met 26 times, all in the regular season, with the Green Wave holding 21 wins. The Cajuns won the last meeting, however, 41-13, in 2012.

NOTES, QUOTES

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--WR Ryan Grant makes Tulane's passing game go and will challenge a Louisiana-Lafayette defense that has only 11 interceptions. Grant has 70 catches for 926 yards and is the first Green Wave player to be invited to the Senior Bowl in three years.

--DT Julius Warmsley will be a central figure in stopping a Cajuns running attack that is averaging over 200 yards a game. Of Warmsley's 42 tackles, 15 1/2 have been for negative yards, including four sacks.

--RB Alonso Harris, Louisiana-Lafayette's leading rusher with 868 yards, needs to step up against Tulane if QB Terrance Broadway is limited by a wrist injury. With Broadway out against South Alabama, Harris managed only 60 yards rushing.

--LB Justin Anderson is the Cajuns' defensive leader, averaging a little over 10 tackles a game. His all-around play (he also has an interception) will be key to keeping in check a Tulane offense that struggles at times.

BOWL HISTORY: Tulane has played in 11 bowl games and was invited to a 12th, but declined an invitation to the 1929 Rose Bowl. The Green Wave is 4-7 in the postseason but has won its last two (41-27 over BYU in the 1998 Liberty Bowl and 36-28 over Hawaii in the ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl in 2002). The Cajuns ended a 41-year bowl drought with their appearance in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl, beating San Diego State, 32-30, on Brett Baer's last-second, 50-yard field goal, and won the New Orleans Bowl again last year, 43-34, over East Carolina.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Having two Louisiana teams playing in the Dome for the first time will undoubtedly let the good times bowl." -- New Orleans Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante, noting the appearance of Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BOWL BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: The Green Wave has averaged only 128.1 yards per game rushing, with RBs Orleans Darkwa (780) and Rob Kelley (422) leading the way, but it really struggled against Rice with only 26 yards on 21 runs. The Cajuns also struggled in their finale with 69 yards against South Alabama, but they have RB Alonso Harris, who has run for 868 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Scouting the passing game: Tulane is throwing for only 176.1 yards a game with QB Nick Montana, who missed two games earlier this season, completing only 53.1 percent of his passes. Louisiana-Lafayette had to go with freshman quarterbacks in its finale with QB Terrance Broadway out because of a wrist injury. Broadway has thrown for nearly 207 yards a game in his 11 outings.

Scouting the run defense: The Green Wave has held opponents to under 120 yards per game rushing with 69 tackles for losses, not including sacks. The Cajuns are giving up a little under 155 yards a game to opposing rushers, but surrendered 192 to South Alabama in their last game.

Scouting the pass defense: Tulane is in the Top 20 in sacks with a total of 34 after recording seven against Rice. The Green Wave also has 17 interceptions, but still is giving up 233.4 yard a game to opposing passers. Louisiana-Lafayette has only 19 sacks and 12 interceptions and is allowing nearly 240 yards a game through the air.

Scouting the special teams: K Cairo Santos is 16-of-22 on field goals for Tulane, and P Peter Picerelli is averaging 40.8 on 73 punts. Louisiana-Lafayette's kicking game isn't the weapon it was the last two years with Bret Baer, as K Stephen Brauchie is only 8-of-13 on field goals, but P Daniel Cadona is averaging 41.8 per punt. The Cajuns have a weapon in the return game, with Darryl Surgent averaging 9.4 yards on punt returns and 27.2 yards on kickoff returns.

Intangibles: The Cajuns are no strangers to the Superdome, having won their last two games there. But the Green Wave will enjoy a post-season rarity, a real home-field advantage. The Green Wave plays its home games in the Superdome and was 5-1 there this season. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses to end their regular seasons, Tulane to Rice and Louisiana-Layette to South Alabama.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Backup RB Elijah McGuire of Louisiana-Lafayette, who has topped the 100-yard rushing mark four times this season, sustained a shoulder injury against South Alabama in the regular season finale, but is expected to be ready for the bowl game.

--QB Terrance Broadway, who did not play in Louisiana-Lafayette's season-ending loss to South Alabama, is considered day-to-day because of a wrist injury.

--C Zach Morgan, a key blocker in Tulane's running attack, is expected to play in the bowl game after missing the last two games because of hip and leg injuries.

--WR Ryan Grant has a streak of 32 consecutive games with at least one reception, although he didn't get the first of his two catches against Rice in the finale until the fourth quarter.

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