Notre Dame football: Jersey boys focused on game

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- When Carlo Calabrese lines up for his first snap in the Dec. 28 New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers, he'll be doing so against a program with which he's very familiar.

The Rutgers campus is about a 40-minute drive from his home in Verona, N.J. Then-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was the first coach to offer Calabrese a scholarship.

Calabrese, one of five ND players from the Garden State, along with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, is almost certain he'll know one or more of the 57 Jersey play-ers on Rutgers' roster.

So there'll be a lot of Jersey in Yankee Stadium three days after Christmas, and Calabrese knows what to ex-pect from his homestate brethren.

"I like to think of us as tough football players," Calabrese said. "You've got a nasty mentality, and we're just physical."

Yes, Calabrese knows there will be a lot of players out of the same mold as him on the other side of the ball, but he also believes he and many of his teammates em-body that Jersey attitude.

"Yeah, but there's a lot of those guys on our side too," Calabrese said. "So it'll be a great game."

It also could be a cold game, although, with an early, early forecast, is calling for a high of 45 degrees with rain for the 12:15 p.m. (Eastern) kickoff at Yankee Stadium.

After ND's regular-season finale at Stanford, Irish play-ers talked about the desire to play in a warm-weather bowl.

"But I think that's just be-cause we were standing in some warm weather out at Stanford. It was pretty nice," said Irish linebacker Dan Fox. "I mean (ND's Nov. 23 home game against) BYU was ri-diculously cold. It's not some-thing that we're worried about. Especially me. I'm from Cleveland. It's what it is. It's freezing."

After the bowl game was announced, the Irish players quickly moved past the warm weather talk, as well as talk that their opponent may not be top shelf. The Scarlet Knights finished 6-6, and the six teams they beat com-bined to go 17-55, meaning some are calling this game one in which the 8-4 Irish have nothing to gain, every-thing to lose.

Forget that, Fox says.

"I don't think about it like that at all. I just think of it as my last career game at Notre Dame," said Fox, like Calabrese a fifth-year senior. "That seems like a pretty big deal to me to try to win that game."

Ditto Calabrese.

"I don't believe in that at all. It's a team that's in front of us and trying to beat us," Calabrese said. "It's a team that wants to beat us, and we're gonna play like they want to beat us, because they do. I'm just going to leave it all on the field because it's our last game.

"So that's pretty much that."

Notre Dame linebacker Carlo Calabrese (44) piles on as teammate linebacker Jaylon Smith, left, and linebacker Dan Fox (48) tackle BYU running back Adam Hine (28) during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER