Irish Music City-bound to face LSU
Brian Hartnett | Sunday, December 7, 2014
After a season of games played around the country, Notre Dame’s final test this year will be against an SEC opponent in SEC country, as it was announced Sunday that the Irish will meet No. 22 LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, on Dec. 30.“I know our guys were really excited about the news and the matchups we’ll have in the Music City Bowl,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said at a press conference Sunday night. “Playing in a great town in Nashville and in another NFL stadium really is an exciting opportunity for us.”
Notre Dame (7-5) and LSU (8-4) have met 10 times, with each team earning five wins. The Irish and Tigers have met in bowl games twice — the 1997 Independence Bowl, which LSU won, 27-9, and their most recent meeting, the 2007 Sugar Bowl, which LSU also won, 41-14.
Notre Dame has played in Nashville only once. The Irish defeated Vanderbilt, 14-7, at Vanderbilt Stadium on Sept. 5, 1996.
Kelly said the desire to play in a new region of the country factored into Notre Dame’s bowl preferences although the ultimate decision came down to conference tie-ins and bowl committee members.
“If geographically there’s a preference, we’d like to continue to explore areas that we haven’t been to before,” he said. “… We knew that an SEC matchup would be most favorable, and then certainly it became outside of our control what that ultimate matchup would be with the SEC because of how they tier their football teams.”
Facing the Tigers will be a tough test, but one Notre Dame is looking forward to, Kelly said.
“There’s no sense going into this bowl game situation and feeling like you’re not going to be challenged,” he said. “I feel like there are matchups there that don’t give you the same kind of challenge. This is one that we wanted.”
Irish to receive extra practice time
In preparation for the Music City Bowl, Notre Dame will receive eight additional practices on campus, five practices on site in Nashville, as well as some extra sessions in the weight and film rooms.
“Essentially, you’re talking about another spring ball,” Kelly said of the additional practice time. “When you get that opportunity with these younger players, it’s invaluable in their growth and development. … We need it desperately.”
Kelly said there will be open competition for all positions, including the starting quarterback slot, when the Irish return to practice Friday. Senior quarterback Everett Golson started all 12 games this season, but he was pulled in the second quarter of Notre Dame’s 49-14 loss to USC on Nov. 29 for sophomore Malik Zaire, who threw for 170 yards against the Trojans.
“The best [standard] I can give you is there’s a way I want that position to operate, and it’s going to operate the way I want it to operate,” he said. “If you operate it the way I want it done, you’ll be the starting quarterback at Notre Dame.”
In preparation for the matchup against LSU, Notre Dame will put an emphasis on physicality in its practices, even with a shorthanded Irish defense, Kelly said. Some offensive linemen might even move over to the defensive line to simulate the Tigers’ defense.
“We’re going to practice physical even if we have to put out guys that are not going to play this year,” he said. “We’re going to bang and play physical because that’s the kind of football we’re going to see. It can’t be flag football here for the next eight practices.”Injury report
Kelly provided updates on several injured Notre Dame players Sunday night. Kelly said he thinks sophomore safety Max Redfield (broken rib), freshman linebacker Greer Martini (quad), graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) and freshman defensive lineman Daniel Cage (knee) will play against LSU. Kelly added that senior cornerback Matthias Farley would receive extra practice reps at the safety position in case Redfield “can’t answer the bell.”
Freshman defensive lineman Jay Hayes (ankle sprain) is “limited right now,” but Kelly said he expects Hayes to be back to “pretty good health” for the bowl matchup. Sophomore defensive lineman Jacob Matuska (pinched nerve) will return to practice at the end of the week, Kelly said. The Irish will work on getting Matuska’s “volume [of snaps] up” over the next few weeks, per Kelly.
Kelly said he is hopeful junior defensive lineman and captain Sheldon Day (knee) will return for the Music City Bowl. According to Kelly, “it doesn’t look promising” that another captain, graduate student safety Austin Collinsworth (separated shoulder), will be available.