Notre Dame ready to play Navy in Dublin
Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was happy to get out of town, leaving South Bend behind for four days and crossing the Atlantic for the first time in his life.
Dublin for a matchup against Navy on Saturday.
''I'm looking forward to doing something new,'' said Lewis-Moore, one of Notre Dame's four captains for the trip to Ireland.
''I've never been across the ocean - or the pond like everybody says. I hear it (Ireland) is gorgeous and hopefully we'll do a little sightseeing. I've never been overseas. I've been to Canada.''
Notre Dame's official traveling party of more than 200 people - including about 100 players - took off Wednesday night from South Bend. And the players' primary task was to get some sleep.
After coach Brian Kelly held a 6 a.m. practice Wednesday, the players went to class, returned to their facilities building for meetings and weight lifting, had dinner and then headed to the airport for an evening flight.
''Hopefully I can kind of lean back as far as I can,'' the 6-foot-4, 306-pound Lewis-Moore said with a laugh. ''I might have to ask somebody behind me if they can like give me a little leg room.''
The exhausting day Wednesday was set up to make the players tired for the long flight, so they would rest on the plane. When they arrive, it'll be day time in Ireland and they can hopefully adapt to the time change.
Kickoff Saturday will be 9 a.m. Eastern time. It's the second time the schools have met in Dublin. Notre Dame rolled to a 54-27 win in 1996, Lou Holtz's final season as the Irish's head coach. A long time ago.
Tight end Tyler Eifert, who said his longest previous travel experience was a trip to Mexico, said the coaching and training staff had everything planned out and the players were trying to approach it like a business trip.
''But I think we need to take in the experience and not just let it go by without making the most of it,'' Eifert said.
''They put in a plan they think will get us rested up and our clocks flipped. We'll be fine.''
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said getting ready for an excursion that will require the transfer of thousands of pounds of equipment for a long distance has been ''incredibly challenging'' for months.
''The logistics of it are something else. Not every 18-year-old has a passport. You start with basic things like that. You have to get everybody a passport,'' Swarbrick said.
''Customs issues. We are going to have four trucks taking equipment out to the airport all throughout the game. When we take the field at the end of pre-game, whatever we don't need for the game, that's the first load out to the airport. ... If we brought everything we traditionally do during a domestic game to the airport at one time and had to go through customs with it, we'd be there a very long time.''
Making sure the team has the right food and gets enough rest has also been a challenge. Coach Brian Kelly's initial concern was that any weariness the trip creates might not be felt until the third or fourth week of the season.
But Kelly cut back on the number of morning practices he had initially planned, figuring his team needed to sleep more than anything.
That didn't happen Wednesday, however. The entire team had arrived for practice by 5:20 a.m.
''I made it clear that if anybody was late they were staying in South Bend,'' he said. ''We'll see how it goes. We're confident we made the right decisions in terms of practice.''
Notre Dame will be without four suspended players. Starting tailback Cierre Wood and reserve defensive end Justin Utupo were suspended two game for violating team rules. Earlier, Kelly suspended quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese for their roles in a skirmish with police following a party in May.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said he's reminded his team that this is not like going to a bowl.
''This is a football game and we're treating it like that. There's a tendency to treat this like a bowl. I'm trying my best to remind people that this is a football game and we're playing a very good team. Hopefully, I've done a good job of getting that message across,'' he said.
Thousands of Notre Dame fans are expected to attend the game at Aviva Stadium.
And Navy will have a presence, as well. The Brigade of Midshipmen will march before the game and the academy says more than 1,000 of those members paid their own way to Dublin to attend the game.
Niumatalolo said he's not worried about the difficulties of playing so far from home.
''The time difference and we have no idea what the weather is doing to be in Dublin,'' he said. ''There's nothing we can about those things.''
Navy guard Josh Cabral, like Lewis-Moore of the Irish, can't wait to check out the surroundings.
''It think it's a pretty cool opportunity,'' he said.
One thing for sure, attending the Naval Academy with its disciplines and requirements should have the Midshipmen ready for the early start - body time.
''Yeah,'' Kelly said. ''They won't be late for the game. I know that.''