Behind the Chippewas' one-day roundtrip
Twelve hours before Central Michigan kicker Josh Rolston put boot to ball to open his team's showdown with Louisiana State, the Chippewas were boarding buses outside the Marriott Hotel in Mount Pleasant.
The Chippewas were originally set to fly down Friday, stay the night in a hotel and use all of Saturday to prepare. Those plans were scrapped when the team's rooms were booked by first responders battling to rebuild Louisiana after Hurricane Ida.
With nowhere to stay, travel was postponed until the morning of the game. Coach Jim McElwain and a large portion of his team are used to same-day travel, as they did so for each of their three road games last season.
However, each of those road tilts were drivable distances. The furthest was a trip to DeKalb, Illinois for a matchup with Northern Illinois -- a taxing, yet do-able 322 miles from Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Going to Baton Rouge, Louisiana required more than could be accomplished on a bus trip. This meant the Chippewas had to hop on a plane and fly to their destination on the day of the game.
Because the team wouldn't be traveling until Saturday, they stayed at the Marriott behind Kelly/Shorts Stadium Friday night to recreate the typical pregame atmosphere.
"Everyone was locked in at the hotel," said tight end Joel Wilson.
The team flew out of MBS International Airport at 10:45 am EST, arriving in Baton Rouge at 1:30. Upon arrival, the team went to the Crowne Plaza hotel around 2 p.m., meeting quickly as a team before heading to Tiger Stadium.
The pregame meal was at 3:30 p.m. and the team buses departed the hotel at 4 p.m., giving the Chippewas enough time to go through their normal pregame routine before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
"We got on the plane and carried our pads and came to play a ball game," McElwain said. "That's alright, that's the way it is."
CMU struggled out of the gate, falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter. LSU scored on its first possession, then did so again when the Chippewas fumbled on their first series. The Tigers jumped to a 35-7 lead at halftime and ultimately won the game 49-21.
After the game, it was back onto the plane for CMU. The team flew home upon bussing to the airport and got home around 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
Though the circumstances were difficult, McElwain said it was a small burden to bear given everything the people of Louisiana have dealt with recently.
"It's a long day, I'm just gonna tell you that. That's not an excuse," McElwain said. "There's a lot of people here in this part of the country that have a lot of things going on. Obviously the storms and what they're dealing with. They had taken some hotel rooms away but so what.
"Really, when you think about it, there are a lot bigger things in life. What they're dealing with down here, with the power outages and floods, and then obviously their running back coach losing his daughter this week. These guys are going through a lot as well."