Notre Dame all business in getting ready for BCS title game
By Mark Lazerus Sun-Times Media December 30, 2012 8:36PM
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks to the media during a news conference after NCAA college football practice, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame and Alabama will play for the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7, 2013., in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: December 30, 2012 9:37PM
SOUTH BEND — Bowl games are a chance to reward players for their hard work all season, a chance to escape the cold and go somewhere warm, to act like tourists, to stay out late, to have a good time, and to eventually play a football game.
But for Notre Dame, its impending trip to South Florida will be no day at the beach.
“This is not a bowl game,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “You’re playing for a national championship.”
So you can forget that 2 a.m. curfew Kelly has imposed in the past for the first couple days of the bowl trip. Doors close at 11 p.m. every night once the team arrives in sunny Florida on Jan. 2.
And you won’t hear the players complaining. The Champs Sports Bowl was fun. The national championship game against Alabama is all business.
“You get the feel we’re here for something more than going to Disney World and playing in a nice game,” lineman Chris Watt said. “We’re here to win a national title.”
Watt said that goes for everyone, and that the veterans will keep the younger guys in line.
“Some of the guys who won’t play might feel the need to go out,” he said. “But we’re going to need everyone for this game — at all the practices, we’re going to need everyone at 100 percent giving great looks. Curfew’s real important. It reminds us that we’re playing in a big game — not that we need to be reminded; every day we hear about it. It’s good for us.”
Special circumstances: The Irish are 115th (out of 120 teams) in the nation in punt returns (averaging 2.4 yards per return) and 84th in the nation in kickoff returns (20 yards per return). Kelly said that the one-off nature of the BCS title game will allow him to put more playmakers on special teams, though he declined to name names.
“We think it’s all hands on deck for our special teams,” he said. “It’s a one-game deal, so we can certainly add to the personnel on our ST. We’ll probably look to do that. We have not been spectacular, but we haven’t stunk up the joint, either.”
Resolute: Kelly was asked what his New Year’s resolution was. After first trying to get his bearings — “What day is it?” he asked — he responded, “Coach a good game. Don’t screw it up.”