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Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold Game: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much

Notre Dame football


WHO? Blue vs. Gold. It’s right there in the name.

In more practical terms, Notre Dame split up its rosters into two teams. Aside from assuming Wisconsin graduate transfer quarterback Jack Coan and rising sophomore Drew Pyne are on different rosters, though, not much is known about how that split looks. A few players, namely sophomore defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina, will play on both teams, per Irish head coach Brian Kelly.

The intent was not to split into first-team and second-team, necessarily, but rather a balanced approach. When reminded of the sack-happy spring finale in 2019 (excellent callback from the South Bend Tribune’s Tyler James with that question), Kelly said he would rather the pass protection hold up than caution the refs not to overly-protect his red-jerseyed quarterbacks.

“We’re going to have the ability to control what we do defensively. I’ve put some controls on what we’re going to do defensively,” Kelly said. “... If we’re not able to pass pro at the level that I think we’re capable of — I don’t think I would have put the rosters the way I have. The guys that are going to be out there are going to be able to protect and put our quarterbacks in a position where they can in fact be competitive and make some plays.

“Ultimately, I’m going to make sure that occurs one way or another.”

That could be a public moment of proof for early-enrolled freshman offensive linemen Blake Fisher and Rocco Spindler, both shown taking many reps with the starting offensive line in the B-roll footage Notre Dame has distributed after each practice. No freshman has started along the offensive line in a season opener in Kelly’s 11 years, but if either or both of that left-side pair can hold up against a genuine pass rush today, then that absolute might finally erode.

WHAT? There was no spring game last year, for all the obvious reasons, but that means the template for this writing is two years old, and this next paragraph remains evergreen, so let’s go ahead and leave it unchanged:

“The 15th and final spring practice for the Irish, then leading to a break in organized practices until the opening days of August. While the coaching staff will not be ignorant of offseason activities and unproven players will also have a month of preseason practice to sway as necessary, the impressions left today will linger for nearly four months.”

Well, make that three months.

WHEN? 12:30 ET, and given this is technically a practice, Notre Dame cannot work for more than two hours, though that does typically allow for a 15-minute halftime.

No need to check the record books, this is the first May Day game in Irish history. Someone alert Sam Malone. Speaking of Sam Malone ...

WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., where the weather may include the nuisance of 20 miles per hour winds.

The broadcast will be exclusively available on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. In a broadcasting double that would be unthinkable in any other circumstance, the usual television channels need to focus on today’s Kentucky Derby. Thus, highlighting this spring scrimmage on the streaming service makes sense and is understandable, even for the most traditional Irish fans.

Peacock should be easy to install for anyone who has not done so yet, and signing up is even easier. However you usually add a streaming app to your television, simply search for Peacock via those same mechanisms. Most browsers also support Peacock, if preferring to use your computer. It is a simple url:

But as it pertains to Sam “Mayday” Malone, you can also watch all of “Cheers” on Peacock, and it costs even less than a beer at Cheers. (What did a beer cost at Cheers? Might need to rewatch the entire series to focus on that answer, if it was ever given.) (According to USA Today, a six-pack of beer cost $3.83 in 1982, the year “Cheers” debuted. So one beer was $0.64. Selling it for $1.50 would have created a hefty profit margin. Okay, that’s enough on this tangent.)

WHY? To return to some sense of normalcy? Even if the game is on a streaming service, it is occurring in May, and only University students, faculty and staff are allowed to attend, Notre Dame simply finishing spring practices, let alone without an interruption since a week-long pause in winter conditioning, is a touch of normalcy. There were too many clauses in that sentence for it to be thoroughly normal, but this is yet another step closer.

And with the University wrapping up its second round of vaccinations on campus this week, (nearly?) everybody in the stands should be actively building thorough COVID-19 immunity.

The score is kept in this environment for a reason. It is played in Notre Dame Stadium for a reason. Fans are included for a reason. While all this pales in comparison to the atmosphere that will be saturated by that annoying “Tomahawk Chop” echoing from 79,560 fans in Doak Campbell Stadium on Labor Day Eve, a few thousand fans in Notre Dame Stadium on a spring afternoon is as close as the Irish can create to that atmosphere. (128 days until Tallahassee, by the way.)

Coan has played in plenty of big moments, having started 18 games at Wisconsin, including a Rose Bowl; Pyne even threw a pass in the pseudo-Rose Bowl in Dallas on New Year’s Day. But Fisher and Spindler have not tested themselves in a real collegiate atmosphere. Neither has early-enrolled freshman receiver Lorenzo Styles.

Junior cornerback Cam Hart has not yet been called upon in a competitive moment, and neither has sophomore cornerback Ramon Henderson. As much as Kelly may have praised that particular duo in recent weeks, having Coan test them on the outside with a crowd’s breath baited will inform the coaching staff moving forward.

I’m more interested in putting guys in competitive situations, getting an opportunity to see some guys we believe we need to count on in the fall,” Kelly said. “I thought it was important that we put them in a team-like atmosphere and play the game.

“Now there’s some guys that obviously we have a good feeling for and you’ll see very little of them. Very strategic, but I think the emphasis here is getting into a competitive situation and putting some of these key players into a game-like situation so we can see how they handle themselves for the first time in a more expansive role.”

For a meaningless game that will include more time than realized with walk-ons taking the majority of the snaps, sometimes a unique realization can be gathered. They are anecdotes for the future, pieces of knowledge to inform fall play designs. One that cannot be forgotten, even with neither player on the roster for more than a year …

Notre Dame will reach 1-0 in May in 134 years of program history.

Let’s talk about Peacock … and Notre Dame’s QBs and defensive leadersLacking ‘firepower’? Kyren Williams & Michael Mayer intent on setting the Notre Dame record straightHome is where the heart is, and for Cam Hart at Notre Dame, that’s at cornerbackThings To Learn: As always, Notre Dame’s QBs will drive the Blue-Gold Game conversation, but look further

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