DALLAS — Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long knew his offense would need a day to get back in the flow of things after a few days off for Christmas.
The Irish got down to Dallas a day earlier than initially planned, which allowed Notre Dame to get adjusted to Cotton Bowl life and AT&T Stadium.
“We were able to come in an extra day early which really helped get our guys acclimated to the stadium,” stated Long. “We were able to knock off some of the rust from the holidays and to have a good practice yesterday was encouraging to see.
“They’re excited. It’s a big stage and a big opportunity. They’re excited to play.”
By Matt Freeman/Irish Sports Daily
Clemson defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence will likely miss the game due to failing a drug test, but don’t expect Long to call a different game.
“They are ten deep,” Long said. “He seems like a great leader and a great player. He has a lot of experience, but the guy right behind him is going to be the next great one.
“Coach (Brent) Venables does a great job of mixing up their fronts, so they’ll be able to take care of it. It doesn’t change anything that we’re trying to do.”
When it comes to the game plan, Long will likely have a wrinkle or two for Clemson, but he also isn’t getting away from what led the Irish to a 12-0 record.
“We have to do what got us here and we can’t change that,” stated Long. “We have to play better. We have to be fundamentally sound and take care of the ball. We can’t have penalties and play the game that got us here. We have to go out and play better on a big stage.”
Long also didn’t hesitate to give the nation’s top defense credit for the second time this month.
“The defensive line is outstanding,” Long said of the Clemson defense. “I really don’t think the secondary gets enough credit. They have two of the best corners we have seen all year and they are playing at a high level. They are physical.
“They are everything you expect from a top-five defense who has been in this game for the last four years.”
Saturday will be a tough task for the Irish offense, but Long believe Notre Dame has a secret weapon.
“You have to find a mix of what your players are good and comfortable with, especially the quarterback,” explained Long. “The biggest thing for us was getting healthy. We needed to get some guys back. The Navy game was the only game where we were 100% healthy and that was without Alex Bars.
“We needed to make sure we were physical and getting tackled in practice.”
Getting healthy might have been a significant piece to the puzzle for Notre Dame, but as Long mentioned, quarterback Ian Book has to be comfortable as well as he faces the toughest test of the season.
“It’s about helping our quarterback and everything is centered around him,” said Long. “We have to get him comfortable and settling the guys down around him. We have to execute and make some adjustments to put us in better positions.”
Long also addressed the big news of the week.