Used by players just seven times a year, Notre Dame Stadium has become a source of reverence on a campus with no shortage of landmarks.
Picturesque? Yes. But hardly the forum that inspires hitting, which is why Brian Kelly changed things up a bit and held the first of his weekly Thursday practices inside the 80,000-seat stadium.
"It's important our guys feel comfortable in there," the third-year Notre Dame coach said. "I felt at times we ran into the stadium like we were running into the Basilica or we were running into the Grotto. We're running into a football stadium, and I want our guys to feel comfortable in there. We were in there like six or seven times last year, so by going on Thursdays I want our guys to feel comfortable in the stadium, in the locker room, in the tunnel, on the field, on the sideline. We practiced there today, had a good practice and now we're ready for focus Friday and get ready to play Purdue."
"It almost seems there’s too much of a reverence there," Kelly added. "It’s Notre Dame Stadium, it’s a football game. Let’s have some energy. We talked about that today. We’ll continue to beat that drum."
The school launched its "Take A StaND" campaign Thursday, encouraging the 80,000-plus fans to participate more throughout the game, which has been a source of contention in the tug-of-war between students and older alumni and fans. The Irish will continue to play in-game music this season, too, an experiment that was launched during last year's night-game loss to USC, though the kinks were still being worked out then.
"I think we're getting there," Kelly, who had refused comment on the atmosphere earlier this week, said of the campaign. "I think if we do a better job in third down and get people off the field and score touchdowns, I think the place will go crazy. We've just got to get it to go crazy."
Notes: Kelly said there is no designated No. 2 quarterback for Saturday's home opener against Purdue, as Tommy Rees has returned from suspension this week to push Andrew Hendrix for the backup spot. … Carlo Calabrese, also back from suspension this week, will see reserve action Saturday. … Kelly is counting on playing USC transfer Amir Carlisle (ankle), who returned this week, but a redshirt is still a possibility. … Kelly's wife, Paqui, reached the five-year cancer-free mark Tuesday, a cause for celebration for the two-time breast cancer survivor, who saw cancer return at the four-year, eight-month mark last time: "We had a pretty big party on Tuesday. No spirits for me, I was up in the morning at 6 a.m. But it was pretty loud at my house on Tuesday," Brian Kelly said.