You didn’t hear? Notre Dame plays Notre Dame tomorrow. Here, let’s make this easy.
WHO? Notre Dame’s first-string offense against its first-string defense, and the Irish second-string defense against the second-string offense.
WHAT? It’s called the Blue-Gold Game, but there are two flaws to that title. One team will be wearing white, not gold, and while it is structured as a game, it is really nothing more than the 15th and final spring practice.
WHEN? 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 22, 2017 A.D. Yes, I am worried you might mistake this as occurring more than 2,000 years before the time of Christ.
WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, but if you can’t make it there, tune in to NBC Sports Network.
HOW? Oh, not going to be at a TV? NBC still has you covered at this link: ndstream.nbcsports.com or on the NBC Sports app.
With those essentials out of the way, let’s pull a few quotes from this morning when new Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long and new defensive coordinator Mike Elko addressed the media. Hopefully, these might provide some general context for what to learn from tomorrow.
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Elko on how much of his defense he has successfully installed this spring:
“We’ve gotten close to 50 percent of all of it up and running. We’ve spent a lot of time defending this offense this spring, so we’re going to have to spend some time defending the offenses we play moving forward. That’s probably where a lot of the learning curve has to come.”
Elko on the most notable defensive improvements:
“We’re disrupting the football better. We’re leveraging the football better. We’re playing harder.”
Elko on what fans should look for from the Notre Dame defense Saturday:
“I hope they see a defense that is flying around. I hope they see a defense that is disrupting the football. I hope they see a defense that has their eyes in the right spot and is executing at a high level. All those things that we’re preaching aren’t going to change tomorrow. It’s not going to be different. It’s not going to be different when we line up against Temple.”
Elko on what he will be looking for from the Notre Dame defense Saturday:
“If we are as a group better than we were the last practice, then that will be good. That’s what we’re looking for. Then we were able to do it in the environment of the spring game, the environment of the Stadium, in front of all those people. We were able to stick to the process and move forward. That will be progress and that will be exciting for me.”
Elko on Notre Dame’s offense, considering his defense faces it every day in practice:
“They’re very talented … They have good o-linemen, they have good tight ends, they have a quarterback who slings it all over the place, they have wideouts who can catch the ball. I probably couldn’t tell you all their names at this point, but they’re talented.
“That doesn’t have anything to do with us. We’re going to have to play talented offenses next fall. We’re not going to go through the season and not play talented people. We still have to do a better job of stopping them and doing the things we need to do.”
AND CHIP LONG…
Long on how the offense has embraced his up-tempo scheme this spring:
“It will probably take into August, just when they get into better shape and whatnot, but they’ve picked it up extremely well. It’s usually a major battle the last few places I’ve been to, when you install this deal. They’ve really embraced it and they’ve done a really nice job.”
Long on what he hopes to see from his offense Saturday:
“I want to see our guys keep competing, doing what we’ve been doing the last three months. I want them to establish our tempo, take care of the ball and play physical. If we do those three things, it’ll be a great day.
“I’m excited. It’s our 15th practice, another teaching opportunity for our guys. When you get to the 15th practice, you get a little tired and sore, so having the fans there and being in the Stadium will give them a little bit more juice to go out there and perform, practice at a high level.”
Long on this offense’s ability to run the ball, partly thanks to its talented offensive line:
“That offensive line, coach [Harry] Hiestand has done a tremendous job. He’s one of the better offensive line coaches I’ve ever been around. The way those guys go about each and every day, the pride that they take in their overall ability is tremendous. It’s been a lot of fun to see their excitement, the way our backs are hitting it.”
Long on the importance of that running game:
“That’s where our offense starts. We want to be physical, and it starts with our run play-action. To be able to do that when we want to makes it a lot easier.”
Long on his use of two running backs, perhaps even a fullback:
“It’ll always be part of it. That’s how I was raised in the game, under a pro style. Tight ends, fullbacks, being able to utilize that. And not many teams see that anymore. So you’re able to bring that in the red zone area, short yardage game. It’s a nice piece to have… The closer you get to the goal line, get under [the center] with a play-action, be able to run the ball, it helps tremendously.”