Isaac Rochell felt terrible.
The overnight flight home from Texas was bad enough. It ended with a 5 a.m. return to campus on Labor Day, which is just another day on the Notre Dame academic calendar. And aside from the emotional drain of the 50-47 double overtime loss to the Longhorns, there was the issue of all those snaps.
Rochell logged a career-high 88 real defensive snaps at Texas, which accounts for the number of snaps logged whether the plays were official or not. In other words, if Rochell played a snap that got wiped out by penalty, it still counts. Officially, Texas ran 86 plays.
James Onwualu (93), Nyles Morgan (91), Cole Luke (88), Avery Sebastian (86), Shaun Crawford (83), Jerry Tillery (83) and Greer Martini (82) all went above and beyond too.
Not only did Rochell have to deal with that workload – at least eight other defenders logged career highs in snaps – he had to recover from it in one day less than usual thanks to ESPN’s decision to move the game to Sunday.
“It was bad,” Rochell said. “And I was thinking that because it was such a quick turnaround. Coach (Brian) Kelly did a very good job of doing what he needed to do to get guys to where they needed to be. Guys feel good. I feel just as good as I would in a normal week. I have no complaints.”
Notre Dame’s road to recovery started with something very un-Notre Dame.
Players said they had excused absences on Monday until 12:30 p.m., letting them catch up on sleep before jumping back into preparations for Nevada. By Monday afternoon many were in the training room getting extra treatment. Tuesday’s practice, usually a 24-period grinder, was cut back. Players like Rochell were limited even more.
“When something like that happens you have to prioritize your sleep, make sure you’re getting enough rest,” said running back Josh Adams. “Make sure your body is getting enough rest that it needs. That was definitely a big thing, to focus more on your recovery.
“A lot of times when you have a game on Saturday you can walk into it or ease into your recovery. Now you have to focus more on it and make sure you’re doing the little things, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep.”
The players logged their recoveries in the CoachMePlus app adopted by the football program that tracks sleep, soreness and activity, sharing that data with the coaching staff and trainers. That made customizing practices for players extra taxed at Texas easier.
Turns out, this week’s story was less about losing a day to install for Nevada and more about losing a day for the players to heal.
“We’re getting the sleep and we’re getting the soreness much lower on the scale of 1 to 5. That’s where I wanted to go this week,” Kelly said. “I think if Isaac was sitting in here, what he said to me was, ‘Thank you for Tuesday. I don’t know how I would have gotten here unless we structured Tuesday the way we did.’”
In fact, that’s exactly what Rochell said.
“They’ve taken care of us and they’ve been doing this longer than I’ve been alive,” he said. “I feel good. I feel way better than I did (Tuesday). I think that’s the same story for a lot of guys. They’ve done a good job of getting us right.”
How much all this matters will show Saturday afternoon, but Notre Dame believes any slow start against Nevada won’t be rooted in what happened Sunday night because of how the Irish handled the 48 hours that followed.
“Lot of soreness, a lot of nicks and bruises,” said receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. “I think the coaches did a good job of helping us get through it with lifting and practice and managing that for us.”