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.”