SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — They’re breaking out the green jerseys, that’s how special Saturday’s game will be for Notre Dame. And appearing in the new Yankee Stadium won’t be all about how snazzy the Fighting Irish might look.
Facing one-time rival Army, the Irish are trying to salvage their season and get to six wins that makes them eligible for a bowl. All under the lights of the big city.
“They know they’re going to New York. I don’t think I’ve ever had more injured guys ask me if they were traveling this week,” coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.
“They’re all excited about that. The fact of the matter is, they want to play well again. They want to obviously, on the stage, in New York, they understand playing well is the most important thing.”
Notre Dame is coming off its most impressive showing of the season, a 28-3 thumping of Utah in which the Irish shut down a potent offense with a display of power and muscle, while controlling both lines of scrimmage. They won easily, even with freshman quarterback Tommy Rees making his first start and a host of other key players injured.
Now comes the challenge of corralling a triple-option offense for the second time this season. The first opportunity went off about as poorly as possible — Navy rushed for 367 yards, many of them right up the middle, in a 35-17 victory on Oct. 23., not too far away from the Bronx at the Meadowlands.
And this time the Irish won’t have nose guard Ian Williams, probably lost for the season with a knee injury.
Army runs a similar offense and its leading rusher is fullback Jared Hassin. But there are also variations from the Cadets.
“They do a very good job with the option and they also add some traditional offense. You’ll see fly sweeps, counter, a passing game that is a little bit more diverse than a typical option team,” Kelly said.
After the Navy loss, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco referred to the defeat in which his side of the ball was pretty much run over “an absolute mess.”
Diaco revealed that the Midshipmen showed some things the Irish hadn’t planned for with different blocking angles and an unbalanced line, making in-game adjustments difficult.
Kelly said that won’t even be a consideration this time.
“We’ve done all the drawing up. We’ll have answers,” he promised.
Against Navy, Notre Dame seemed concerned all week during practice leading up to the game about the Midshipmen’s use of cut blocks — going low and taking the defender’s legs out from underneath him.
Answering a question Tuesday, Kelly said he didn’t think that his team was psyched out by that type of blocking.
“We just didn’t defend it. We couldn’t get to the areas that we needed to get to,” Kelly said. ‘The guys know what to expect from it this time around. I don’t think we’ll overemphasize it. They know the schemes. This is strictly about, again, controlling the line of scrimmage than worrying about cut blocks.”
The Irish returned last week to their practice field for the first time since the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan last month when the lift he was filming practice from fell over on a windy day.
“I think he’s always in our thoughts. But I think we’re at a point now where we’re able to focus on the job at hand. There’s always those private moments that you’re going to have, you’re always going to have them,” Kelly said.
“I would not say that there’s a sense or even in our practice that we’re distracted when we’re out on the practice field.”
Kelly said he had no update on an investigation into Sullivan’s death.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.