SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame could be challenged by where it is playing as much as who it is playing today.
The Irish (5-2) travel to play Air Force (1-6) in the thinner air of Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Certainly playing at the altitude, we have no hills and altitude here, so we will do the best and adjust as we go,” coach Brian Kelly said.
Falcon Stadium stands in the base of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains and is 6,621 feet above sea level. Kelly said there wasn’t anything the team could do to prepare for playing in the conditions, but the Irish do have a plan to deal with the environment.
The team does have people with first-hand knowledge of playing and coaching in the higher altitude. Former Irish linebacker Danny Spond, who had to stop playing before the season because of severe migraine headaches, is from Littleton, Colo., and running backs coach Tony Alford and graduate assistant Tyler McDermott both played at Colorado State.
“They said the biggest thing was to hydrate,” left tackle Zack Martin said. “Beyond that, it is just something you have to play through and get used to after the first few minutes of the game. But hydration is the biggest thing. We know it is going to be a little something, but we have to get past it.”
Some Notre Dame players do have experience playing in higher altitudes.
The Irish defeated Miami 33-17 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31, 2010. El Paso is 3,800 feet above sea level.
Notre Dame also hasn’t struggled in past games on Air Force’s home turf.
The Irish defeated the Falcons 39-17 in their last trip to Falcon Stadium. “We acknowledge the fact that the altitude is different,” backup linebacker Joe Schmidt said. “We recognize that it is going to feel a little different. I don’t think we are that worried about it. I think we are all going to get used to it.
“We know that nothing is going to happen because we are at a higher altitude. There is enough oxygen there. It is just going to be a little different feeling. We can still breathe. We are not going to the moon. You’d be crazy not to thing that it is different, but we understand the terrain and what we are going into.”