SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame starts this season in an unusual setting.
The Irish play Navy at 9 a.m. today in Dublin, Ireland, and the Irish said one of the keys to getting a win is being able to treat the opener like any other game.
“It’s hard to say that it is like any other game, but we have to focus on getting out there on the field and coming home and getting the season started,” Irish tight end Tyler Eifert, a Bishop Dwenger graduate, said Wednesday.
There is little normal about the opener. Notre Dame left for Dublin on Wednesday, and the plan is for the team to return to South Bend after the game ends.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said a lot went into getting the team to the game, including making sure every player had a valid passport and how to prepare for the team’s departure.
“You start with basic things,” Swarbrick said at media day Aug. 16. “We are going to have four trucks taking equipment out to the airport all throughout the game. When we take the field at the end of pregame, whatever we don’t need for the game, that’s the first load out to the airport.
“If we brought everything we traditionally do during a domestic game to the airport at one time and had to go through customs with it, we’d be there a very long time.”
As for the game, Irish defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said the team will not overlook Navy, which is coming off its first losing season since 2002. The Midshipmen went 5-7 last season and lost to the Irish 56-14 at Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 29.
“It’s never easy to prepare for Navy,” said Lewis-Moore, who is playing in his first game since suffering a knee injury against USC on Oct. 22.
“They are a great team. We got to bring our ‘A’ game. We know they are going to bring their ‘A’ game. It’s going to be a whole different country and a whole different atmosphere. I’m looking forward to get out there.”
Notre Dame will not have four players because of suspensions.
Running back Cierre Wood and defensive end Justin Utupo were suspended for the first two games because of violation of team rules, and quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese were suspended for today’s game because of their arrests in May.
Notre Dame will start sophomore Everett Golson, who didn’t play last season, at quarterback, and Theo Riddick, who played at slot receiver the last two seasons, will start at running back.
Navy will not have receiver Brandon Turner because of a violation of team rules.
Even though it is an early start time against a team known for its discipline, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he is sure his team will be ready for today’s game.
“It’s the opener. My gosh, if you can’t be excited about the opener, I don’t know what we are doing here playing football,” Kelly said.
“I think it’s going to be a nonissue.”