Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2018*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 OCT. 8, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED S cheduling strategies will for- ever stretch well beyond much of Brian Kelly's control. But the collateral challenges sent his way this fall from a particularly disjointed slate of games might leave the Notre Dame head coach begging for more inclusion moving forward. Beginning with the trip to Virginia Tech Oct. 6, the Fighting Irish will play five of their final seven games — including four of the last five — away from Notre Dame Stadium. It's the first time in Kelly's nine seasons his team will play only two home games through the months of Octo- ber and November. Sound tough enough? Well, two of those final seven games (Navy and USC) are on the West Coast and two others (Virginia Tech and Syracuse) are on or near the East Coast. It all adds up to more than 12,000 round-trip miles in six weeks, comparable to a one-way trip to Sydney, Australia … with 1,200 miles to spare. "I'm short on frequent flyer miles, and this is really going to put me over the top," joked Kelly, trying to use sarcasm to mask the unforgiving travel logistics ahead. This season and the 2008 campaign mark the only two times since 1991 that Notre Dame played four of its first five games at home, a schedul- ing dynamic that created this year's back-loaded road schedule. Playing games in every corner of the U.S. and even at times interna- tionally is part of what defines Notre Dame. No other program could draw enough attention or interest to take its team to Yankee Stadium, or to Fenway Park, or to Dublin, Ireland, or perhaps even to Rome in the dis- tant future. And while Notre Dame's broad appeal is apparent and impressive, perhaps some scheduling selfishness might serve this program better with its only two goals listed as College Football Playoff appearances and championship banners. The Shamrock Series matchup against Syracuse (Nov. 17) is actually a home game and was expected to be played at Notre Dame Stadium, until a late location switch sent the Irish to Yankee Stadium — one weekend before they travel to Los Angeles to play USC in the regular-season finale. "I'm not in favor of it," Kelly said in an exclusive interview with Blue & Gold Illustrated this summer. "… Going to New York and then going to L.A. is not the easiest way to run the table." Kelly explained that a variety of reasons went into moving the Syra- cuse game to New York — most no- tably avoiding an inevitable spike in season ticket prices that a seventh home game would create. But the re- location still created some angst after it disrupted Kelly's core offseason mission: play better in November. Since 2013, Kelly is only 9-12 in November, and the Irish have lost the alternating regular-season finale games against USC and Stanford in a school record five straight years on those Thanksgiving weekends. Kelly explained after a 2-2 Novem- ber last year — one that featured losses to Miami and Stanford and a tired defense that surrendered 33.25 points a game during the month — that any late-season breakdowns would be addressed during this lat- est preseason. "It starts with really enhancing our ability to recuperate and recharge," said Kelly, who in response had some recovery tactics and equipment added to the football facility. Another part of the November improvement plan for a team Kelly called "mentally exhausted" last year was to play better against lesser op- ponents early this season (see Ball State and Vanderbilt) in order to groom depth and lighten the load today on frontline players for fresher legs tomorrow. But until the 56-27 blowout win over Wake Forest, that plan didn't hold together. The most glaring evi- dence was senior linebackers Drue Tranquill and Te'von Coney playing all 242 defensive snaps through the first three games, and quite a few more on special teams. Yet, even with the miles piling up on these two vital players and many others on defense, Kelly insists that his plan to build a better November through the work in September and October is moving forward, and can more than meet the challenges of the upcoming schedule and travel demands. "It's football season — you've got to play," Kelly said. "If we can find a couple plays off here or there, we'll try, but it's all hands on deck." Just don't lose your boarding passes on the way there, gents. ✦ Scheduling Mishaps Skew Bigger Goals UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Over the final two months of the regular season, head coach Brian Kelly and his team play only two home games and will rack up more than 12,000 round-trip miles traveling to five road tilts. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA REMAINING SCHEDULE WITH ESTIMATED ROUND-TRIP MILES Date Opponent (Round-Trip Miles) Oct. 6 Virginia Tech (1,300) Oct. 13 Pittsburgh (0) Oct. 27 vs. Navy in San Diego (4,800) Nov. 3 at Northwestern (240) Nov. 10 Florida State (0) Nov. 17 vs. Syracuse in New York City (1,500) Nov. 24 at USC (4,200)

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