(MCT) — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — By Tuesday, it was clear Notre Dame could wait no longer to get to Florida and the BCS title game Monday against Alabama at Sun Life Stadium.
As the charter plane rolled through a haze of water cannon blasts late Wednesday, this also became clear: The Irish do not know what they’re getting into, actually.
“They’re going to play the national championship game in Miami,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said upon arrival. “It’s not like any trip they’ve had before. It’s not like any trip I’ve had before.”
Notre Dame will combat that unfamiliarity through routine and relaxation. The practice Thursday essentially represents what the Irish would do on a normal Tuesday of game-week prep, and so forth through game day. There will be familiarity in fine-tuning the game plan for the Crimson Tide.
And while there is an 11 p.m. curfew to help preempt trouble, there was also a trip to a Heat-Mavericks game on Wednesday, among other distractions. All aimed at creating some balance and, to Kelly, getting his team “relaxed and ready to play.”
“It’s difficult to focus with all the distractions, especially in Miami,” receiver Robby Toma said. “But Coach is going to give us a lot of free time and (we’ll) have fun. (But) when it’s work time it’s work time.
“I’m definitely feeling a little nerves right now. If you don’t feel nerves then something is wrong with you. This is a huge game. This is what you grow up for and what you want to play for when you’re young.”
All aboard: The Irish, as far as could be discerned, passed the critical housekeeping test of bringing everyone to Florida who was expected. A spokesman said there were no players with academic or disciplinary problems.
“Everybody’s on that plane that’s supposed to be on that plane,” Kelly said.
Kelly added that receiver DaVaris Daniels, recovering from a broken clavicle, is expected to “play a role, and we hope it’s a significant role in what we do.”
Foot forward: In Miami, Alabama arrived and center Barrett Jones walked off the plane with his injured left foot in a protective boot. But the Rimington Award winner practiced a day earlier for the first time since the SEC title game and pronounced himself clear.
“It’s good,” Jones told reporters. “I’m ready to roll.”
Heat on: Kelly didn’t ramp up the heat during indoor practices to prevent dehydration, but working up a lather in 80-degree weather is vital to acclimatizing for Monday’s kickoff.
“We’re going to have to sweat it out,” Kelly said. “But our guys are in great condition, they’re in great shape. A couple of days outside and they’ll be fine.”