Even after all the injuries that piled up for Notre Dame this season, head coach Brian Kelly said the Fighting Irish must bang on each other in the weeks leading up to the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.
"My first couple of bowl games I was really hesitant to even get into some contact," he said about his postseason trips with Cincinnati, including a comeback 31-21 victory over Southern Mississippi and a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech. "I think we all get caught up in wanting to be injury-free going into the game, and then the game is a little too fast for you early on.’’
Kelly, noting advice he once received from Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer about maintaining a high level of physicality through December, said he won't coddle his players, though practices will lighten up around exam time, before Notre Dame (7-5) meets Miami (7-5) on New Year's Eve.
Senior nose guard Ian Williams, who went down with an MCL injury against Navy and missed the final four games for the Irish, and sophomore receiver Theo Riddick (ankle), extremely limited since Oct. 16, are both expected to start against the Hurricanes.
"Ian will get as much work as he's able to get," Kelly said of the 6-2, 305-pounder. "It's his last game playing for the University of Notre Dame. So he's going to have to tap his helmet and yell real loud to come off the field, because we're going to stick with him."
Odds and ends
ESPN.com's Heather Dinich reported today that Miami's allotment of Sun Bowl tickets sold out in 36 hours. Notre Dame sold out by Monday night. No tickets remain available to the general public and it's the quickest sellout in the 77-year history of the bowl game, according to Sun Bowl officials.
"I guess that's different from last year," Kelly said, "because I don't know that either of those players [quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate] had asked to be evaluated. They both were going to go [no matter what]. Both of these young men have asked to be evaluated."