Louisiana-Lafayette has a reputation to uphold at the Superdome, but this year it'll have to do it against an opponent that calls New Orleans home.
Looking for their third straight New Orleans Bowl victory, the Ragin' Cajuns meet in-state foe Tulane Saturday with the Green Wave making their first bowl appearance since 2002 and both teams battling injuries at quarterback.
The Ragin' Cajuns (8-4) sandwiched a school record-tying eight straight wins between season-opening and season-closing two-game losing streaks. A 30-8 loss to South Alabama on Dec. 7 cost the Ragin' Cajuns their first outright Sun Belt title and they settled for co-conference champion honors with Arkansas State.
"I am not going to let this ruin the entire season," coach Mark Hudspeth told the team's official website. "We are the Sun Belt Conference champions. Even though we finished tied, we beat the team head-to-head that we finished tied with and we won eight games in a row. We won a conference title in just our third year together and we are going to our third straight bowl. 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."
Quarterback Terrance Broadway missed the final game of the season with a broken right arm suffered Nov. 30 in a 31-28 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.
Tulane (7-5), however, is preparing for the junior, who threw for 19 touchdowns and ran for another eight. Tulane coach Curtis Johnson is also anticipating he'll have his own starting quarterback, Nick Montana, who has been slowed by a shoulder injury.
"We want to be as basic as we can, but we are going to prepare for Broadway," Johnson said. "Broadway makes the whole thing go. We think Nick will be ready, but if he isn't, then we'll move onto Devin (Powell)."
Montana, son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, separated his shoulder in October and aggravated it in the Green Wave's last game, a 17-13 loss at Rice on Nov. 30.
Tulane struggled to move the ball at the end of the season, losing three of its last four while failing to crack 200 yards in two of those games. They scored 17 points or fewer in four of their last five.
"Our team was not healthy offensively," Johnson said. "We took a beating the last couple of weeks. Our quarterback wasn't very healthy since early on in the season. ... I think we just need to get healthy and back up and work on some fundamental stuff. I thought our fundamentals were slipping with the offensive line and the receivers. I think that will help us a lot."
They went 5-5 in games Montana played as the junior completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,654 yards, 14 TDs and nine interceptions. He sat out last year after transferring from Washington.
The Ragin' Cajuns had found an offensive groove with Broadway, averaging 41.7 points in the three games before the injury.
They had similar offensive success in last year's meeting with Tulane. Louisiana-Lafayette beat Tulane 41-13 on Oct. 6, 2012, with Broadway at quarterback.
"I think if you look at what happened last year against them, they really took us to the woodshed," Johnson said. "They played sensational. They have the better record and they've been in this bowl game several years. I think we are pretty desperate for a win right now, and we are practicing like it. We are going in the right direction."
But Broadway or not, Hudspeth wants to see his team's turnovers handled. They've turned the ball over seven times in the last two games with no takeaways.
"We had a couple of turnovers that gave them a short field," Hudspeth said after the South Alabama loss. "It wasn't just the turnovers that we gave them, we gave them the momentum and we never got it back. We played well enough defensively to win the game, but we turned the ball over too much."
The Green Wave, meanwhile, had a plus-12 turnover margin and turned it over once in their last two games.
While Louisiana-Lafayette beat East Carolina 43-34 in last year's New Orleans Bowl, the Green Wave last played postseason football in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl, a 36-28 win over Hawaii.