Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Irish brace for an experience unlike any other

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When Brian Kelly got off the plane and walked down the stairs onto the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale Jet Center on Wednesday afternoon, he recognized a few of the people in orange jackets from the 2009 Orange Bowl, when his Cincinnati Bearcats lost 20-7 to Virginia Tech.

But the orange jackets are about the only things that will be the same this time around. For Kelly and his players, this week will be an all-new experience, and unlike any bowl week they've ever experienced. This isn't the Champs Sports Bowl, after all.

"We're going to play the national championship game in Miami, so it's not like any trip they've had before," Kelly said. "It's not like any trip I've had before. So there was the anticipation when we got on the bus at the airport that they were really excited about this trip. It's something that you dream about when you play this game."

Receiver Robby Toma said the key will be to keep things as normal as possible. He also realizes how difficult that will be.

"In all bowl games, there are opportunities for your team to get better, and this doesn't change that," he said. "This week, it's difficult to focus with all the distractions especially in Miami. Coach is going to give us a lot of free time so we're going to be able to have fun, but when it's work time, it's work time."

That said, playing in big games is nothing new for the Irish. It's just a matter of magnitude.

"All season, the coaches have done a good job of keeping us grounded and not letting our heads get too big," he said. "So it won't be too difficult. Just having an opportunity to play for Notre Dame, with all the fan support and how many people follow us, every week is a big game. But this is the biggest game, and we're ready for it."

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on January 2, 2013 5:03 PM.

Special circumstances for Notre Dame special teams was the previous entry in this blog.

Another year, another BCS title game for Crimson Tide is the next entry in this blog.

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