SOUTH BEND – When a team is playing against Alabama for the BCS National Championship in January and the whole nation is watching, that isn't the proper time to have fun on the football field.
But when Notre Dame Stadium is filled with just over 30,000 of the most ardent Fighting Irish fans on a sunny, but chilly, day in April, and Brian Kelly's team is only competing amongst themselves, then that is the time for the Notre Dame players to enjoy themselves. And that is what the Irish did.
“It was a blast,” Irish second-year linebacker Jarrett Grace said.
Grace did enjoy himself, and it has been awhile for him.
After spending the past two seasons sitting and waiting behind All-American Manti Te'o, Grace got his opportunity to start in Saturday's Blue-Gold spring football game.
“I've been chomping at the bit all (last) season,” Grace said. “It's hard when you're sitting behind someone.”
Grace is like any other player, he wants to play. However, he also understand how the game – the getting on the field portion – is played at the collegiate level. The best players get on the field. The rest have to work hard and be ready when given the chance. And he was on Saturday.
He tied fellow linebacker Ishaq Williams with a team-leading eight tackles,, and he also added one for a loss.
“It was fun,” Grace said of getting on the field. “It felt like it used to back in high school. Being out there and flying around. Fun is the word that I'd use to describe it.”
The Irish offense struggled against the defense. In the complex scoring system, the Notre Dame defense (Blue squad) ultimately won 54-43, but in a traditional sense, the Irish offense (Gold squad) only scored one touchdown (a 35-yard touchdown reception by freshman receiver C.J. Prosise from classmate Malik Zaire) and that came with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.
In sticking with the “fun” theme, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who had lost an academic-based bet with noseguard Louis Nix III, allowed Nix to rush for the two-point conversion.
“Just had to keep a few things in order at quarterback,” Nix said. “I was supposed to throw the ball but we haven't actually positioned me to read defenses yet so I just ran. Got me a quick two and I was happy.”