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Notre Dame arrives in South Florida

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, January 2, 2013

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Flanked by two fire trucks equipped with water cannons, the No. 1 Irish rolled into the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Jet Center in style Wednesday, just five days before they face No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.

As the plane slowed to a stop, members of the Orange Bowl committee, clad in vibrant orange blazers, lined the exit of the aircraft. Irish coach Brian Kelly was the first one off the plane and onto the orange carpet at around 4 p.m., followed shortly by Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick.

Notre Dame (12-0) last played Nov. 24 when it punched its ticket to South Florida with a 22-13 win over USC and will look to capture its first national title in 24 years.

“I think getting on the plane, you finally realize, that, in fact, we are going to play a football game,” Kelly said. “It’s such a long time that I think everybody was just anxious to get here.

“I know a lot of them tweeted and sent out pictures that they were happy just to get on the bus. That doesn’t happen very often.”

When Notre Dame’s charter plane pulled up, throngs of media from around the country awaited them on the ground.

“When we pulled up, all of the people that were looking out the window were pretty much amazed to see the kind of draw that this game has,” Kelly said while standing in front of a team bus draped with a photo from Notre Dame’s win over Miami.

Kelly said the bright lights and the ever-growing spotlight will be a new experience for the Irish.

“They’re going to play the national championship game in Miami,” Kelly said. “It’s not like any trip they’ve had before. It’s not like any trip I’ve had before.”

Kelly said there were no late setbacks that prevented anyone from traveling to South Florida and that sophomore receiver DaVaris Daniels is ready to play for Notre Dame after breaking his left clavicle at Boston College on Nov. 10.

“He’ll play a role and we hope it’s a significant role in what we do.”

The Irish will practice two more times in South Florida. Both practices will be held at Nova Southeastern University.

“We’re going to do what we’ve done,” Kelly said. “Alabama knows it. Alabama knows that we know what they’re going to do. And it’s going to come to the execution, that’s really what it comes down to.”

Notre Dame senior receiver Robby Toma said the Irish will watch the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks play tonight at American Airlines Arena.

“We want to have fun too. Yeah, this is a business trip, there’s no question we’re here to play the game but I want our guys relaxed,” Kelly said.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu