Housekeeping NotesA severe flu bug made its way through Notre Dame's campus over the final month of the fall semester but it appears the Irish roster has recovered for the bowl matchup, including team MVP Michael Floyd, who battled illness twice over the final five weeks.
Floyd is back in action and ready, a few pounds lighter according to head coach Brian Kelly, but absent from the game day proceedings and the team's preparations is offensive coordinator Charley Molnar – the voice on the other end of Kelly's headset. Kelly noted on Sunday that running backs coach Tim Hinto would handle that role, with grad assistant Scott Booker adding to his duties with some of Molnar's "passing game role."
(Offensive line coach Ed Warinner will continue to handle the coordination of the team's running game.)
Don't miss it ‘til its gone: Injured senior center Braxston Cave is a lock to return to the program for a 5th-year of eligibility and will likely take part in Notre Dame's spring practice session. In his stead for the season's final month stepped Cave's classmate, Mike Golic, Jr. Golic has offered mixed results, playing well in emergent duty vs. Wake Forest but struggling intermittently since.
Cave's absence was felt most by the team's quarterbacks as Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix were sacked a combined eight times over the final three games – the same total the Cave-manned Irish front allowed in the 8.5 contests he started.
"There aren't a lot of guys like Braxston Cave," Kelly noted. "Sometimes when you lose a guy, you don't know what you have (until he's gone). Braxston's not the best center in the country, but physically, there aren't many that have his ability at the point of attack. So it's hard to say that Mike compares in that sense. But Mike has done a nice job for us filling in for Braxston."
"He's not certainly at the level that Braxston plays because Braxston is so much more physical," he offered. "But Mike is a battler…he's very coachable. But clearly, when you're talking about that position, the (asset) that Braxston brought was that he's so physically strong at the point of attack."
A Series of Series or a Series here and there? Sophomore backup Andrew Hendrix might have earned more playing time over the bowl preparation sessions. Either that or Kelly wisely refuses to reveal his hand to Florida State during the final sessions of the Seminoles game week practices.
"Leading up to this game, it was more situational," Kelly said when pressed for Hendrix's potential role Thursday evening. "I think this is less situational.
"Look, the first time Andrew goes in there, they're going to blitz him," he added. "At least I would because he didn't do as well picking up the blitz against Stanford when he went in there late. As long as he does that, he can play the entire game if it works that way. So before, it was situational because we knew he couldn't do some of those things. Now we feel confident he can. If he gets in there, who knows, he could play quite a bit."