No. 8 Notre Dame's trip to No. 19 Michigan ends home stretch

October 24, 2019

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ade Ogundeji insists he and his Notre Dame teammates have built and maintained a "road-warrior mentality" this season — even though they haven't been on the road in over a month.

That lengthy exemption from having to play an away game — the kind that was ultimately cruel to the Fighting Irish the last time they were in a similar scenario — comes to a screeching halt Saturday night when No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1) visits No. 19 Michigan (5-2) before an anticipated sellout crowd of around 110,000.

"It's going to be different," said Ogundeji, a senior defensive end who grew up a Michigan fan and graduated from Walled Lake Central High, about 40 minutes from Ann Arbor. "We haven't played a road game in a while, but we still have that road-warrior mentality that we have to have every single road game."

Ogundeji said it means "knowing that we're going to have the crowd against us, knowing that we're going to have things going against us."

"We're going to have adversity, but we've just got to go through that," Ogundeji said. "No matter what happens, what the situation is, we still got this brotherhood, teammates who got to work through that."

The Irish haven't played a game outside Notre Dame Stadium since their 23-17 loss at then-No. 3 Georgia on Sept. 21. The visit to Michigan will mark the third time in coach Brian Kelly's 10 years that Notre Dame lines up on the road after four straight regular-season weeks at home or off.

The most recent such occasion wound up ugly for the Irish. Ranked No. 3 two years ago, they were whipped 41-8 at No. 7 Miami.

The other instance came in 2011, when an eventually 8-5 Notre Dame club held off an eventually 6-7 Wake Forest team 24-17.

"Some teams you might be concerned with not being on the road for a little bit," Kelly said this week, "(but this is) a pretty mature group. . It just seems like everything they do is very, very mature, and you don't worry about things like going on the road after being off for five weeks. They'll handle themselves very well."

Besides, unlike 2017 and 2011, the Irish are coming directly off an open week. Kelly is 10-1 at Notre Dame in regular-season games under those circumstances.

Conversely, he's just 14-13 in night road games overall and 0-2 in games at Michigan Stadium, while the Wolverines have won 11 straight over the last two years.

Regardless of the numbers, Irish senior receiver Chris Finke is relishing being away from home as a change of pace.

"I like road games," Finke said. "I think a lot of other people (on the team) do as well. It's just a different experience. You kind of get the whole weekend just for football."

According to Finke, home football weekends bring commitments that can sometimes be distractions. Not only are there none of those this week, but with Notre Dame on fall break, there have been no classes, either.

"This whole week is just all football," Finke said with a smile. "(With a road game) you get on the plane, and you know that there's nothing else you have to worry about."

If there is a worry, it might be rooted in the noise-induced false-start penalties that plagued the Irish during their loss at Georgia.

Finke and Kelly both expressed confidence that the issue is cleaned up.

"We started our non-verbal cadence last week," Kelly said. "That's something that requires much more repetition, so that was learned (from the Georgia game), and we're not going to make that same mistake twice. I think our guys are really tuned in to understanding that the atmosphere will be loud and that that you cannot be distracted if you are interested in executing at a high level."

in this topic
Bowl Subdivision Bowl Subdivision
Independents (FBS) Independents (FBS)

share story