Holtz, Irish to face Japanese team

TOKYO -- Lou Holtz expects his players to uphold the Notre Dame football tradition Saturday when they face Japan in the Notre Dame Japan Bowl.

Holtz will coach a selection of alumni from Notre Dame's teams against Japan's national American football team, and he expects a tough game from the hosts.

"Their football has improved tremendously," Holtz said Friday at Tokyo Dome. "They've looked at film, they understand the game ... if we have an advantage it's in the lines, but they are quicker and in better shape so I'm a little worried about the second half."

The Fighting Irish alumni had only six practice sessions to prepare for the game, which will begin at 3 a.m. ET (4 p.m. local time), and Holtz said avoiding injuries will be a key challenge.

"It's been a zoo," Holtz said. "When you get older playersm, it's tough but we're ready to go. It's Notre Dame football and we'll play the way Notre Dame is supposed to play."

Tony Rice is expected to be the starting quarterback for Holtz's team.

"I'm 41 years old and when they asked me to do this, I said, 'You know what? I'm gonna do it.' "

Rice said he's been passing the ball a lot and running in preparation for the game.

"I'm expecting a good team," Rice said. "Japan will come out to play. They are hungry but we are, too, so it will be a good game."

Japan, led by head coach Kiyoyuki Mori, is using the game as part of its preparations for the 2011 IFAF world championship. Japan lost the 2007 final 23-20 in double overtime against the United States.

Holtz has been in Japan four times in the past as a coach of the U.S. team in the Japan Bowl, and was glad his players have a chance to experience a different culture.

"They've had a great time," Holtz said. "They went to a few shrines and some of them were up at 5:30 a.m. to go to the fish market."

Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown will be a member of the coaching staff. Brown joins fellow former Notre Dame players Chris Zorich and Reggie Brooks on the staff.

Holtz, who had a 100-30-2 record in 11 seasons at Notre Dame, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in May and was enshrined into the hall at a ceremony last week.