Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly grew up in the Boston area rooting for the Red Sox. Receiver Torii Hunter Jr. rooted against them.
Hunter’s father and namesake was a major leaguer who played against Boston at Fenway Park for the Twins, Angels and Tigers. Now Hunter Jr. will take the field at the century-old ballpark when the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish play Boston College on Saturday night.
“It’s definitely going to be a pretty cool experience,” said Hunter, who is also an outfielder on the Notre Dame baseball team.
Although the game is only a few miles from BC’s Chestnut Hill campus, the Irish are the hosts as part of their efforts to spread their home games around to connect with far-flung alumni. Hunter’s father warned him not to expect a warm welcome.
“He said they hated him a lot, the fans. He said the fans were very aggressive,” Hunter Jr. said. “That’s all I really heard about the park.”
The football field has been laid out from the third-base line to the right-field bullpen, where Hunter’s father went head-first over the wall in pursuit of David Ortiz‘s grand slam during the 2013 AL Championship Series. The younger Hunter said in the preseason that he would like to recreate his father’s famous flop.
“I said that, but I’m kind of nervous now. I think I might get flagged or something if I do it during the game,” he said. “If it happened naturally, that would be epic.”
Both teams will stand on the same sideline for the game. Notre Dame (9-1, No. 4 CFP) gets the cramped home clubhouse for the game, while Boston College (3-7) will work out of the even more cramped visitor’s clubhouse.
That’s fitting for Eagles coach Steve Addazio, who grew up in Connecticut as a New York Yankees fan.
“It’s so nostalgic and it’s got that old ballpark field,” said the BC coach, whose team played at Yankee Stadium last season in the Pinstripe Bowl. “It’s just way cool, and I don’t know how anybody couldn’t feel that way coming into watch this game — players and fans included. I think it’s going to be really throwback kind of atmosphere.”
Here are some other things to look for in Saturday’s game:
SHAMROCK SERIES: With the No. 4 spot in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, Notre Dame is in line for a spot in the four-team tournament to determine the national champion. But the Irish shouldn’t look past BC to the postseason or even next week’s game against No. 15 Stanford.
Twice in the series between the only two Catholic schools in the FBS — this is the 25th meeting of the rivalry the schools call the Holy War — Boston College has spoiled Notre Dame’s chances at a national title.
In 1993, the 17th-ranked Eagles beat top-ranked and unbeaten Notre Dame in South Bend on the final day of the season with a 41-yard field goal as time expired. In 2002, unranked BC beat the fourth-ranked Irish, again at Notre Dame.
“This is one of those games that our young guys don’t quite understand. So we’re going to do a good job of filling them in,” said Addazio, who had worked as an Irish assistant coach from 1999-2001. “It’s just cool. That’s what I love about college football. Sometimes, some of those things, you just can’t get away from. It makes college football unique. Then of course, you’re playing it at Fenway.”
RECOVERED: Kelly said this week that running back C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame’s leading rusher, was sufficiently recovered from a concussion to play in the game. Josh Adams ran for 141 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown, last week against Wake Forest.
Prosise, who was averaging 108.3 yards a game and 6.6 yards per carry before sitting out last week, needs 25 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
“I think his words were, (he) feeIs like himself again,” Kelly said. “The games turn to be more of a physical nature and you have to rely on the running game certainly in November, so just balancing the load and having two guys that you can count on is very, very important.”
SUBS: One of the bigger adjustments will be in making substitutions. Both teams will be on the same sideline, with a 10-yard gap between the 45 yard-lines. Players won’t be allowed to leave the field in front of the opponents’ bench, but they can come off for subs in the end zone and up to the 5.
The coaches had a conference call with the officiating crew to discuss the new ground rules, and both teams said they practiced subbing in and out.
“We try to teach our players: if there is a substitution, to get off the field right away, even if you have to enter their bench. Otherwise, you’ll have a long way to run,” Addazio said. “It is different. It’s just awkward.”
FLUTIE: Former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie said he still plans to work the game for NBC Sports Network as an analyst just three days after both of his parents died of heart attacks. BC backup quarterback Troy Flutie is the nephew of the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner and grandson of Dick and Joan Flutie, who died on Wednesday an hour apart.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.