SOUTH BEND – When they sang “Notre Dame, Our Mother” after a dominating victory over South Florida on September 19th, most people didn’t think it would be closer to a month before the Irish would take the field again.
After the game, an outbreak of COVID-19 hit the team which forced their game against Wake Forest on September 26th to be postponed. On September 28th, the team announced that there were 18 positive tests the week before, 25 players were in isolation while 14 others were in quarantine.
It’s the pandemic nightmare that every single coach around the country and it halted Irish practice for about a week. Slowly, the team has been returning to full activity with some players being held out as testing continues.
Finally, on Saturday night, Notre Dame can take the field for the first time in 21 days as the fifth-ranked team in the country, facing Florida State under the lights in South Bend. It’s been a stretch like no other for Brian Kelly, who is trying to keep his team safe during the pandemic while learning on the fly.
So what’s the newest that he’s learned during this recent outbreak? The details matter even more than some would believe, even when it comes to celebrating the joy of victory.
“It’s so hard to win, and then when you do win, the first thing out of my mouth is ‘Hey, stop celebrating, put your mask on, you have to do that,” said Kelly, who said a celebration actually triggered a few new cases. “That’s probably what we’re all learning is that it’s so hard, given the circumstances that we’re in, that we have to be on top of every little thing, regardless of the circumstances.”
Beyond the COVID-19 protocols, Kelly also has the unique challenge of getting a team ramped up to play after a long gap in games. The three-game break is rare in a college football regular season, and with some practices postponed due to the outbreak, getting the Irish ready for the Seminoles provided an entirely challenge.
“When you don’t play for a couple of weeks, you worry about timing, execution, things of that nature. I’m less concerned about it as we’ve gone through the week because we’ve gotten our legs back and gotten back into a football, kind of, routine. Earlier in the week, when I was asked the question, there was a lot of uncertainty because I haven’t done it before.
“But as I look back on it now, I think we took the right approach in balancing this off and not doing too much with our guys.”