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.''