Irish hit the road for ‘home’ game versus Maryland

Notre Dame will travel halfway across the country to play a

”home” game against Maryland on Saturday night in a stadium only

12 miles from the Terrapins’ campus.

It’s all part of Notre Dame’s plan to play one off-site home

game per year. The Irish faced Washington State in San Antonio in

2009, hosted Army at Yankee Stadium in 2010 and will face Arizona

State at Cowboys Stadium in Texas in 2013.

Next up: FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins.

”As we have looked to move one game a season around the

country, playing in the Washington D.C. area seemed a natural for

us in terms of institutional fit,” Notre Dame athletic director

Jack Swarbrick said.

It can’t hurt recruiting, either. So Irish coach Brian Kelly

won’t complain too much about the quirk in the schedule.

”Playing on the East Coast, it’s a great area to recruit, get

great exposure on NBC in primetime,” Kelly said. ”We’re really

happy about those things, but we’re treating it as though we’re

going to play Maryland in Maryland.”

Not exactly an ideal scenario for a surging team seeking to

improve its bowl stature.

”I have no control over those things,” Kelly said. ”They make

the decisions and they tell me what bus to get on. I have a card

that tells me what seat to sit in, and I show up.”

Kelly shouldn’t worry much. Maryland (2-7) has lost five

straight and is winless on the road – though it’s only a short trek

from the Terrapins’ campus.

”We play an away game this weekend but we are treating it like

a home game,” Terrapins coach Randy Edsall said.

The Irish (6-3) will wear their dark jerseys, but that won’t do

much to make them feel at home.

”You pretty much treat it as a road game,” linebacker Darius

Fleming said. ”You’re not at home in your home stadium. You’re out

there. We’ve never been there before.”

Tight end Tyler Eifert said, ”It is strange and not normal, but

you just have to approach it as another game.”

It’s the second straight matchup for the Irish against an

Atlantic Coast Conference foe. Notre Dame rallied past Wake Forest

24-17 last week for its sixth win in seven games.

All signs point to an easy victory for the Irish, but this isn’t

a typical week. If Kelly can’t even count on a home game being at

home, he certainly isn’t taking this outcome for granted.

”I think we saw last week you’ve got to really play well when

you go on the road,” Kelly said. ”Teams are going to play their

very best. Maryland will play their very best against us, as has

every team we’ve gone against. … Whatever their record is, it is.

But this is their one shot. They’ve already had their Senior Day.

That was last week. So they’ve got to look at their schedule and

go, here’s our bowl game.”

Kelly was right on target. The Terrapins aren’t going to have a

winning season and will probably finish in the cellar of the ACC

Atlantic Division, but all that will be a lot easier to take if

they defeat Notre Dame.

”Notre Dame is one of the most storied programs in the history

of college football. To beat them would be a great victory for

us,” Edsall said.

”It’s a huge game for us – a pro stadium, a packed house and

it’s only the second time we’ve played them,” defensive tackle Joe

Vellano said.

Notre Dame beat Maryland 22-0 in the 2002 Kickoff Classic in New

Jersey.

The Terrapins will be breaking out their ”pride uniforms” –

the same garish helmet, jersey and pants combination they wore in

the season opener against Miami. The white, black, yellow and red

outfit created a national buzz because of its outlandish look.

Maryland won that game, too, but hasn’t beaten an FBS opponent

since.

Edsall will probably alternate quarterbacks, a tactic he’s used

the last three weeks. C.J. Brown has the better legs; Danny O’Brien

is a purer passer.

”When the running quarterback comes in the game, we have to

make minor adjustments and tweaks in how we play certain coverages

just because of the way that he can run,” Notre Dame safety

Jamoris Russell said. ”He’s a threat.”