SHREVEPORT, La. — Tevin Hood stood on the stage at Riverview Theater in his gray Arizona sweat suit, using the fingers on his right hand to count as quickly as possible.
The question seemed simple enough, but with the spotlight literally bright and hundreds of football players looking right at him, it suddenly got tougher.
“How many I’s are in the Mississippi River?”
The man who introduced himself as “T-Hood” calmly and correctly answered five. The left side of the theater erupted in cheers from Hood’s teammates and the right side, filled with Boston College Eagles, booed.
And that’s how bowl week in Louisiana officially gets started.
Hood and the Wildcats battled Boston College in “The Big Game Show” with the UA eventually winning the competition. Players from both teams got on the stage and answered questions in various game show styles.
It was all fun and games.
But today the Wildcats will get back to work when they hit the practice field in advance of Tuesday’s AdvoCare V100 Bowl.
The UA will practice again Sunday, hold a light walk-through Monday and then battle the Eagles for real on Tuesday at Independence Stadium.
“We’ve had good practices on campus and hopefully our focus will remain strong while we’re down here,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I think it will.”
Part of remaining focused is blocking out all the distractions that come with a bowl game and staying out of trouble. That could be easier said than done for the Wildcats.
They are staying at Sam’s Town Casino in the middle of downtown with several other casinos surrounding their headquarters, resembling a mini Las Vegas.
“Whether you’re on-campus or off-campus, you better show maturity and be very respectful,” Rodriguez said. “Our guys have done that all year. I want the bowl folks and the people our players meet in town to say ‘that’s a great group of young men.’ ”
Rodriguez and several of the UA players and coaches took a charter plane from Tucson early Friday. Other players, who scattered home for a short holiday break, took plane rides from different parts of the country.
By the end of the night Friday, the entire UA traveling party had made it to Shreveport ready for some football.
Of course, for the majority of the team it was their first trip to Shreveport, or even Louisiana.
“I mean, I watch ‘Duck Dynasty’ but that’s about it,” said senior guard Chris Putton of the widely popular reality TV show on A&E that’s based in Monroe, La. “I’ve never been in the state of Louisiana, but I’m excited to be here and like what I’ve seen already.”
While the UA waited until today to get practice started, Boston College went right to work Friday after landing in the morning.
The Eagles held a two-hour workout at a local high school. Like Rodriguez, BC coach Steve Addazio gave his team a few days off to go home for the holidays.
“We saw a lot of guys, like me, that ate too much for the holidays,” Addazio said smiling. “So it’s going to take a few days to kick back into that gear that we had going before the break. We want to have some fun, but also understand why we came here.”
Addazio, who is in his first year at Boston College after two seasons as the head coach at Temple, has a history with Rodriguez. When Addazio served as the offensive coordinator at Florida under Urban Meyer, Rodriguez, who was at West Virginia at the time, made a couple of trips south to share his knowledge of the spread offense.
“Rich is really one of the founders of the spread, up-tempo offense and we’ve spent a lot of time with him and picking his brain,” Addazio said. “He’s a great guy and he’s a heck of a football coach. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
Rodriguez will get some time to reminisce with Addazio, but with the two set to battle in a few days, he won’t be sharing any tips on his offense this time.
Rodriguez will also get a chance to reminisce about time he used to spend in Louisiana. He spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Tulane in New Orleans and used to recruit Shreveport.
He’s not the only one on the staff familiar with the area. Calvin Magee, Rodriguez’s current co-offensive coordinator, was born in New Orleans.
“His eyes lit up when he saw all the Cajun food on the menu,” Rodriguez said of Magee. “He will eat pretty well and I think we all will this week.”