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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame, Brian Kelly Looking to Beat Next Challenge

November 24, 2020

"We won the bye week." 

That's the joke in most years across college football, but in 2020, it has taken on new meaning. 

Notre Dame might not have ultimately won the bye week, but it was very close as offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer's appendectomy was the only surprise of the week. 

"Tommy had an emergency appendectomy," stated Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly. "It was laparoscopic, so we caught it in time, no rupture. He's up and around already. We expect him to be moving around later this week and football-related activities next week. We dodged a bullet there. He'll be out for a short period of time."

The Irish won the week as no one tested positive for COVID-19 or fell into contact tracing, which means only one student-athlete is in isolation at this point in time. 

Kelly asked his players to give up a little freedom over the weekend as trips home or to see friends would usually be in order on the off week. 

"Nobody traveled," stated Kelly. "Nobody was in a position to do so, either because we wanted to maintain our bubble. So guys were here.

"We stayed in our modified quarantine, if you will. Guys tested (for COVID-19) on Saturday. All their tests came back negative. So we wanted to maintain that.

"Once you step outside this environment we've created, you open yourself up to the uncertainty. Our guys understand that. They know that this is what they signed up for. It's not easy. But they're committed to it. They've gone this far, there's no turning back right now. They know the next few weeks are certainly going to be similar. That's why Thanksgiving looks a lot different, but they're prepared for that."

The next challenge for the Irish will be North Carolina on Friday afternoon, but also to beat downtime.

Classes and exams are done, so Notre Dame is back to its bubble. The good news is the students are gone, but the team needs to continue to be smart with the extra time. 

"We know the implications if we happened to slip up," explained tight end Tommy Tremble. "Just one little slip up could have pretty bad repercussions for the program. 

"Everyone on this team is 100 percent into the program and we're ready to make those kinds of sacrifices, even if it's not as fun or as lavish. We're on a mission. We're down to stick to that routine." 

For graduate student Ben Skowronek, the run at the College Football Playoff is one reason why he transferred to Notre Dame. 

The goal is in sight and the Fort Wayne native knows he has to help lead the team into good decisions over the next month. 

"Coach Kelly mentions it all the time," said Skowronek. "We have to be smart. We're in a position now where one slip up can cost us a chance of winning the National Championship. I think everyone has bought in. It's about being bought in. I think every single person in the locker room has bought in. 

"With the students gone, it's just us. Having an awareness of the pandemic is a tough situation for everybody, but I think we're all in this together." 

Kelly also is aware it will be on him and his staff to help provide entertainment over the next few weeks to keep his guys in good situations. 

" It doesn't feel like bowl preparation, yet. They're just getting out of exams. Matter of fact, some of them still have them this week in some of our graduate classes. Then we had weight training today and we'll have it on Wednesday and then, of course, we have the short week.

"It will be next week where we have to be very creative with their time. During bowl preparation, you get to do a lot of things. You get to take the guys to movies, out to eat, those things will not be available to us.

"So, we're really strategizing at what are some of the activities we're looking at to make sure that we have some things for our guys to do over the next few weeks. That hasn't hit us yet, but that's going to hit us probably next week."

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