How the game day shift from Saturday to Sunday might affect Notre Dame

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

This week only, Saturday is not Saturday.

It’s Friday. Friday is Thursday, Thursday is Wednesday and Wednesday is Tuesday.

Inside Notre Dame’s football facilities, reality is inferior to routine.

“We called this practice our intense Tuesday today,” senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey said on Wednesday. “Then tomorrow will be Working Wednesday, even though it’s Thursday. So we kind of just pushed our stuff back a day.”

72 HOURS.

Working Wednesday on a Thursday. #BeatTexaspic.twitter.com/41oNJeqN5H

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 1, 2016

That’s because, when the Irish kick off against Texas, they’ll do so on Sunday night, participating in the program’s first non-Saturday season opener since 1996 and first true road opener since 2006.

When college football kicks off en masse on Saturday, Notre Dame’s players will be watching just like everybody else.

“We won't get (into Austin) until late Friday,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “So we'll get up (on Saturday) and like most Fridays, we'll do our work. The only bonus for us is they have no class that day. So they'll be on the road, able to sleep in a little bit, able to catch up on rest. Then we'll go through our normal Friday for the entire day.

“We'll get in our practice, we'll get in all the things that we do on a full Friday, which will be really good for them. They'll have some downtime. They'll have about two or three hours to watch some college football games.”

Added McGlinchey: “It will be a little weird waking up and possibly catching an hour or two of College GameDay.”

Routine is a fickle thing. Any microscopic shift to the schedule could bring on a sudden collapse. But despite the change in days, Notre Dame is approaching everything the same. Same practice. Same meetings. Same meals.

Same focus.

“We’ll definitely be lounging around, watching college football all day until we have dinner,” senior wide receiver and captain Torii Hunter Jr. said with a grin. “But once we have dinner Saturday night, that’s when it gets pretty intense and guys start locking in. I think the younger guys will follow suit once they see a lot of the older guys starting to lock in after that dinner and we have our first couple meetings.”

Head coach Brian Kelly, for one, isn’t immediately concerned. His team should be ready for Texas.

It’s the aftermath that keeps him up.

“Generally where it affects you more is on that next week. That’s where you really have to be careful,” Kelly said. “Because we'll get back in (to South Bend) at 4 a.m. Monday and then we play Nevada that Saturday. So my concern is usually around the flip side of it. Because you adjust your schedule a little bit.

“It’s the next week where you concern yourself with making sure that they've got proper rest.”

Despite the extra day, Kelly won’t be resting in the days ahead.

An extra day to wait is an extra day to worry.

“I get excited for every game,” the seventh-year Irish head coach said. “To me, the week I hate. You know, it's not knowing if you've covered everything and the preparation. I love going to practice and I love preparing, but I hate the fact that you may have forgotten to go over something or you didn't drill it deep enough.

“You love going out and playing the games, but it's the fear of not covering every little thing that could occur in an opener. I find myself at these times in openers, (thinking), ‘Did I go over the lanes on the punt after a safety instead of the kickoff after a safety? Do I have the right guy out there on kickoff after a safety?’

“All the little things like that go through somebody's head like mine, the very weird kind of mind that I have.”

As Friday (actually Saturday) bleeds into Saturday (actually Sunday), Kelly’s mind won’t stop racing.

His players, on the other hand, have more to worry about than the game.

“It shouldn’t be a problem for us,” McGlinchey said of the change in routine. “The only thing is the trip back home. We have to get to class on Monday.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Linebackers practice during Notre Dame Football Media Day Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, at LaBar Practice Field on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN