SAN DIEGO - Louisiana Tech's football team made its first touchdown of the bowl season this morning at 11:30 Pacific Standard Time when the first of two team charters landed here at Lindberg Field after departing Monroe about 9 a.m. Central.
A second charter arrived roughly an hour later, making the first-wave total of Tech team, family, University cheerleaders and fans on the West Coast more than 300. More Tech fans arrived during the afternoon in anticipation of Tech's Wednesday meeting with Texas Christian University in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. CST in Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers.
The weather was in the mid-60s and mostly cloudy Wednesday afternoon.
Forecast calls for rain Sunday, light showers Monday and Tuesday and clear skies on game day; temperatures are expected to hold with highs in the mid-60s, lows in the high 40s.
After a 1-4 start, the Bulldogs rallied to finish 8-4 and champions of the Western Athletic Conference. Among the fans excited about the unlikely season and the bowl reward: Matt Staub, a 2004 Tech aviation graduate and co-pilot on the Sun Country team charter that brought Tech out west.
The plane's co-pilot, after helping guide the team's plane to its softest landing of the season - much softer than a Matt Broha tackle - raved about the chance to meet head coach Sonny Dykes. Coach Dykes presented the plane's fearless co-leader with an autographed Louisiana Tech hat.
The greeting at Lindberg Field was the most impressive in the program's bowl history, several longtime well-traveled Tech fans said. Moreover, it was the most impressive in the bowl's history. This marked the first time a Poinsettia Bowl team was greeted on the tarmac by the "Red Coats." That is Poinsettia Bowl organizing committe, not a British military unit from the 1800s for you history buffs.
More than three dozen Red Coats flanked a red carpet leading down the tarmac from the charters to the team buses, clapping, welcoming and shaking hands. A mariachi band played "Feliz Navidad," its three members in Tech blue suits. Palm trees nearby. Water. Light breeze off the harbor. Not a bad way to say hello to the West Coast.
Base of operations here is the San Diego Sheraton Hotel and Marina, a property used to playing host to large events and groups and sprawled over Harbor Island overlooking the water and yachts and sailboats and various pleasure watercraft on San Diego Bay. Tech has many of the first-floor conference rooms reserved and set up for meetings and meals.
The team had a couple of hours of free time in early afternoon for eating a buffet in a large conference room, checking into rooms and checking out the property. Some Bulldogs are more familiar with Southern California than others: quarterbacks Nick Isham and Colby Cameron and receiver David Gru are from the Thousand Oaks area near Los Angeles maybe three hours north of here, and recently graduated receiver Taulib Ikharo is a northern California guy, from Berkley.
Besides continuing preparation for TCU (10-2 and Mountain West champions), the Bulldogs will visit the famous San Diego Zoo Sunday and Seaworld Monday. Tuesday's big event is a tour of and luncheon aboard the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway. Tuesday evening is the LA Tech Alumni Fan Party & Harbor House Dinner.