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Football: Kelly prepares team for first true road test

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, September 12, 2012

After games in Ireland and at Notre Dame Stadium, the No. 20 Irish will face their first true road test of the young season when they travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a primetime matchup with No. 10 Michigan State.

The Spartans (2-0) have won 15-straight games at Spartan Stadium, including four consecutive night games. Irish coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame (2-0) would make adjustments to prepare for the extra crowd noise.

“We’ll have crowd noise piped into practice [Tuesday]. We’ll go with some silent indicators [on offense]. We’ll make sure our communication is streamlined and make sure we do all of the things necessary to make sure it doesn’t,” Kelly said. “My track record has been such that on the road, we have handled those situations pretty good, but we’ll have to work on them as well.”

Kelly said the team showed mental toughness in the 20-17 win over Purdue after relinquishing a 10-point lead at home.

“I think you build toughness in so many ways before you get to the season, and then when you get to continue, you look to see it come together,” Kelly said.

The Irish will try to erase memories of their last trip to East Lansing – a 34-31 overtime loss to Michigan State on a fake field goal. Notre Dame won last year’s meeting 31-13 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“It’s not a trip to the water park,” Kelly said. “I just want a mature group that goes on the road with a focus on what the job is at hand and that is to play their very best. Toughness, mental and physical, that’s universal, home and away. But just a good, mature group when you take them on the road.”

The trip to 75,000-seat Spartan Stadium will be the first of four true road games for the Irish this season, including three at current top-10 squads. Notre Dame will also go to No. 2 USC and No. 5 Oklahoma.

“We knew the schedule we were going into. You’d better be physically tough and mentally tough, or you’re going to get run out of the stadium,” Kelly said. “So I think we are prepared for that, and we’ll continue to challenge our players in practice to give us that mental and physical toughness necessary to win games.”

Spond cleared

Irish junior linebacker Danny Spond has been cleared by Notre Dame’s medical staff, Kelly said. Spond was sidelined with a head injury suffered during preseason camp in August.

“We can go back to our original plan of [sophomore linebacker Ben] Councell and Spond at the drop position,” Kelly said. “And that would be the hope moving forward that we are able to stabilize that dropped position with Danny.”

Kelly also said sophomore receiver DaVaris Daniels was in a boot Sunday after sustaining an ankle injury during the win over Purdue. Daniels should play Saturday, Kelly said.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at
mdefrank@nd.edu