Notre Dame Business Trip To California Stays On Eastern Standard Clock
Finishing a regular season with four of the final five games on the road is not unique to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.
In 2015, the Fighting Irish were legitimately vying for a College Football Playoff bid, and the situation was somewhat similar to this season with four of the last five games away from home.
Following an Oct. 24 bye week, Notre Dame made back-to-back trips to Pennsylvania to play Temple (Oct. 31) and Pitt (Nov. 7), before hosting Wake Forest (Nov. 14).
Then, rather than play Boston College at home in the second-to-last contest of the season, the decision had been made to play in an iconic baseball venue — Boston’s Fenway Park — in the Shamrock Series, in the Eagles’ home city. The season was then capped with the annual West Coast trip for the finale, versus Stanford, where any hope of a playoff bid was dashed with a last-second 38-36 loss to finish 10-2.
Four seasons later, Notre Dame will once again, following the bye week Oct. 20, conclude with four of the last five contests on the road. The degree of difficulty might be even more challenging for the current 7-0 and No. 3 Irish, who control their destiny to advance to the CFP.
• It begins this week by playing Navy in San Diego. Although the Midshipmen are only 2-5 and reeling, this year will mark only the second time ever Notre Dame will make two trips to the state of California (in a span of five weeks, no less). The other was in 2007 when the Irish won at both UCLA and Stanford — two of their victories during a 3-9 debacle.
• Notre Dame travels to 4-3 Northwestern Nov. 3, about a two-hour bus drive, to play a team that has been maddeningly inconsistent this year.
• On Nov. 10, Senior Day at home will feature Florida State, which has gradually improved after a miserable start but under new head coach Willie Taggart is far from the vintage Seminoles from earlier this decade.
• Just like in 2015, the desire to maintain the Shamrock Series came at the price of relinquishing a home game in order to play at an iconic baseball venue, this time Yankee Stadium versus Syracuse (Nov. 17) in its home state.
The difference is whereas in 2015 Boston College possessed one of the most anemic offenses in the land that averaged a paltry 10.6 points during its final 10 games in which it went 1-9, the 2018 Orange is one of the more potent offenses in the nation, ranking ninth nationally with a 42.6 scoring average.
• Finally, the regular season concludes with the Nov. 24 outing at archrival USC, back on the West Coast. Notre Dame has lost a school-record five straight regular-season finales to either the Trojans or Stanford, and head coach Clay Helton is 19-0 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — although that puts USC right where Notre Dame wants it if you know anything about the school’s streak-busting history.
While only one game can be played at a time, the cumulative effect of such travel is what Kelly and his staff are looking at in the overall picture.
Thus, with the 8 p.m. EST kickoff versus Navy this weekend, Notre Dame will remain in California overnight before leaving the next day and arriving home later on Sunday afternoon in an effort to keep the collective body clock in sync. Consistent hydration and proper sleep are the mandates during the trip, rather than forcing a trip back home around 1 a.m. and not arriving until the dawn hours on Sunday.
“We stay on the eastern standard clock on the way out,” Kelly stated. “We’re really just trying to take this as a quick business trip out, use the flight back as a rest, kind of recovery, on the way back.
“Sundays for our guys sometimes are met with, if it’s a home game, going out with their family, doing a lot of things, up on their feet. They’ll be on a flight for four-and-a-half hours maybe picking up a little bit more rest. This was really about trying to make sure that when we get back here sometime around 4 p.m. [Sunday] that we don't put ourselves behind relative to the rest and recover.
“… Getting out there hydrated, staying on the eastern standard clock, playing the game, staying over, getting a good night’s sleep, getting on the plane, using that as an opportunity to rest so when we get back here we’re not feeling the effects of the West Coast trip.”
Fifth-year senior linebacker and team captain Drue Tranquill is the model to emulate when it comes to taking care of his body seven days a week with proper rehab, but he also has a much lighter course load than during his undergraduate days as an engineering major.
“It’s a lifestyle for him more so,” Kelly said. “Generally you see that from much more mature professional athletes. I see that more from some of our players that come back that are now professional athletes, that now get how important their body is to them in their vocation.”
Kelly understandably did not support moving the Syracuse game to New York, but he told Blue & Gold Illustrated last summer that steps were taken within the infrastructure — specifically the training and medical offices — to help ensure a much stronger finish than the 9-12 record over the past five Novembers.
“My task was, ‘Here’s what your schedule is, here’s what we’re doing, go figure out how to be rested in November,' and that’s what I’m working on, ” he said last summer. “Those are difficult things for football teams to handle late in the season with all of that travel.
“I have to be proactive in doing the things necessary to keep this football team fresh.”
This has included the addition of recovery rooms, float tanks, massage therapy, cold tubs, proper nutrition …
“It’s the battle of how you can stay just ahead of the needle relative to recovery,” Kelly said this week. “I think that's not necessarily just here, but some of the schools that are really on a tightrope as it relates to the load that they have in the classroom.”
Fasten the seat belts for these travel plans to make it to the CFP.