SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Louis Nix didn't think he was going to play on Saturday, seeing as he was fresh off two days in Notre Dame's infirmary with the flu bug that's been going around the Irish locker room. It caused George Atkinson to stay home for Notre Dame's trip to Norman, and against Pittsburgh, it nearly led Notre Dame's big nose tackle to stay on the sidelines.
Leading up to the Pittsburgh game, Nix was so sick he nearly slept through practice early in the week. When he got to practice, though, it became apparent to Notre Dame's coaching staff that he wasn't even close to 100 percent.
"I was feeling bad, like I didn't want to wake up," Nix said. "I was feeling real fatigued, like I didn't want to go to class but I had to, I just was feeling bad. My teachers got wind of it as well, they knew something was wrong with me -- if you don't see me smiling, laughing or joking around, something's wrong with me."
While Nix, a junior who didn't play as a freshman, is in second year on Notre Dame's defensive line, that experience didn't balance out the effects of missing practice. Nix tried to practice early in the week, but wasn't able to do much and wound up in the infirmary on Wednesday and Thursday.
"It's like going into a gunfight with a pair of scissors," Nix said of going into a game without practicing. "You're not prepared for that. I wasn't prepared, but I did my best and I just did what I usually do in a regular game. I read my keys, I did that to the best of my abilities and I guess I was right on some plays, wrong on some plays. But as long as you're going full speed, it eliminates all that."
Nix only played against Pitt because fellow defensive tackle Kona Schwenke suffered a shoulder injury on Saturday. He said his pregame routine didn't change much -- right down to eating his customary Cinnamon Toast Crunch -- but he wasn't himself thanks to the illness. Still, as Notre Dame's defense locked down Pittsburgh late in the game, Nix made his presence felt.
"When got in there, he played very well," coach Brian Kelly said. "He played really gutsy -- he was not feeling well. He would come over to the sideline, you could tell that he was not feeling very well. But it was just a gutsy performance from a kid that was sick all week."
Earlier in the year, when describing Notre Dame's motivation for stopping an opponent from scoring in the red zone, the always-quotable Nix said just wanting to get some water was behind that. With his illness on Saturday, that desire extended well beyond the 20-yard line.
"Yeah, I really wanted some water, I wanted to get some air," Nix said. "I wasn't feeling well, I just wanted to sit on the heated benches and just get some rest.
"But I'm happy we won, man."