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GAME #34
Saturday, September 10, 2016

Nevada Wolfpack: 1-0
@ #18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 0-1

Notre Dame Stadium
Notre Dame, Indiana

Trip Dates 9/9/2016 – 9/11/2016
School University of Notre Dame
Visiting Team Nevada Wolfpack
Pre-game Record: 1-0
Home Team Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Pre-game Record: 0-1
Game Time (ET) 3:30 PM Eastern
Weather 70 & Partly Cloudy, Brief periods of light rain
Attendees Jarrett, Al, Brett, Jake, & Nate
Jarrett’s Pick Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(21 and 12 record)
Al’s Pick Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(17 and 16 record)
Attendance 80,795
Capacity 80,795
Length of Game 3:25
Seat Location End Zone Sideline – 36th Row
Miles Traveled 1,717
Photo Album Click here for the ND Photo Album

Travel – New York
The 3:15am wake up was a bit harsher than usual on this trip as it involves not just me getting up that early but my son Jake as well. This trip to Notre Dame is the first of what will hopefully be many kids can pick a game to go to each year. Haley got first pick and took Gainesville, which allowed Jake to get the game he wanted, Notre Dame. So it was a 3:30am wake up call that Jake got. Al would like me to add that this was the first trip that required him to get up earlier than me and drive to my house before heading to the airport. Normally he gets the extra 30 minutes of sleep, but not today. Oddly, there were no issues and this just shows me that he owes me 8 years of an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

As evidence of how early this is, not that it is needed, I did the whole “Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament…again” thing getting out of my neighborhood. Not really, but I did take the scenic route to the parkway. Additionally, and I want all bad drivers to hear this, if you are going to drive 5 mph, pull over to the right. And if you are driving 5 mph and someone tries to pass you, let them. Don’t speed up as if you did not realize you were driving 5 mph as it takes effort to drive that slowly. That just makes you an asshole!

Anyway, off to the worst terminal at the worst airport, that is now under construction making it worse than the 405 with a ten car pile up and a jackknifed tractor trailer during a hailstorm between 3:55pm and 4:00pm on the Fourth of July (and yes, with one baby zebra). But at 4:30am LaGuardia it is not bad yet, only 1 hour delays.

Waiting for our flight in Terminal B, the following observations can be made:

  • Terminal B has no PreCheck. You get a card to give to the TSA that allows you to not take off your shoes, but the line is the same horrible line. Why?
  • Dunkin Donuts loses a lot of business to Au Bon Pain by not opening until 5:10am. Why?
  • There is a lot of Cowboys/Giants gear around the airport. There must be a flight to Dallas. (The Cowboys and Giants play in Dallas to open the NFL season on Sunday)
  • There is a lot of Notre Dame gear on our flight.
  • The airport is crowded and a zoo at 5:30am. It can best be described as a ClusterF*** (It’s a family trip report, thus the asterisks).
  • But I save the best for last, overheard on the line waiting to board the flight, guy says to his girlfriend/wife (I guess), “Fix yourself, you look like a mess”. She replies, “You know, that is not very nice”. Even I know enough not to say THAT.

Travel – Chicago/Notre Dame
The flight was smooth and short. There was even a bit of sleep, at least on our side of the aisle, I can not speak for Al and Nate. Jake did draw the lucky seat sitting next to the cute girl who went to the University of Nevada. Strange to be on a plane going to a game with someone who went to one of the schools playing in the game but not headed to the game. This was a bit of foreshadowing as the whole flirting with girls thing would become a theme of the trip FOR JAKE & NATE ONLY. There was absolutely no flirting by Al or Jarrett, not for lack of trying but we are just not as cute as Jake and Nate and they are still young enough to pull it off.

After landing in Chicago, a shuttle, and picking up the rental car, we headed out for Notre Dame. We started the journey with major disappointment as Jake & Nate could not understand why we did not rent a Porsche or at least something better than a Toyota Camry. They did not understand the whole space requirement thing nor the fact that this was one of the better cars we could end up with and most importantly was not a Hyundai Veloster. And their concept of money is a bit off, i.e. Al can trade in his new used Porsche for an airplane straight up.

The drive to Notre Dame was a straight shot and less than two hours, but plenty of time for the kids to get more sleep. Nah, I did not buy that either. But we did discuss the ramifications of Nate bringing back gifts from either a casino or adult superstore. We checked out both and decided not to buy anything. Not really, but I know Alexis does not read these trip reports so I could include stuff like that without any issues.

Anyhow, we somehow make it to South Bend and Notre Dame.

Before, we move on, a trivia question…Who won the January 9, 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and who did they beat? Answer: Nevada over Boston College 20-13. Did you get that Brett?

University of Notre Dame
After thinking for most of the drive from Chicago that we could make the 10am tour, we finally realized which clocks were on CST and which were on EST. We were off by an hour and would not make the 10am tour. So the 1pm it would be. It is a tad strange to fly from EST to CST and then drive back into EST. All that aside, we wanted to make sure we registered and got on that 1pm tour, so we headed directly for campus.

Google maps takes us directly to the Notre Dame campus and we drive around a bit looking for the tour. We eventually find the main visitor lot. The helpful parking assistants inform us there are two spots in the lot, but parking is one hour only, not enough time for the tour, and we need to go back and park by the stadium. Fine, but did you catch the fact that they knew there were exactly two spots open in the lot. This was done manually. Nice operation! Unless of course it was all BS and they were making up numbers, but that did not appear to be the case.

We park at Notre Dame Stadium and head to Blaze Pizza for lunch. My pre trip research found the Eddy Street Commons with lots of places to eat and I know Jake likes Blaze Pizza, so I made a note. Jake can be a tad picky and by a tad, I mean a lot. Al won the prize for best looking pizza concoction, and he even did the gluten free crust so he would not be sick later. First wise decision in 8 years of the Quest.

After lunch, it was off to the bookstore which was essentially in the same building as where the tour would depart. So it was time to make our usual donation to the local economy. I could not bring myself to buy a Notre Dame shirt and Jake did not want to buy anything either. So my only purchase was the usual shot glass and a tshirt for one of Jake’s good friends who is a big Notre Dame fan. It was a cool looking shirt.

So this would now be a good time to heap a ton of praise on Notre Dame and the bookstore. Pre trip research said this was the largest University bookstore in the nation. I am not sure that is entirely true, but it is certainly possible. The bookstore was quite large, size does matter. But more importantly, it had the nicest looking stuff of any bookstore we have been to thus far and that factors in that almost all of it had the ND logo on it. The choices were endless and the designs were fantastic. If I would wear Notre Dame gear at home, this would have been a very expensive bookstore and trip.

Further, while the bookstore was crowded, there was a ton of staff both helping with merchandise and in checking out. While very crowded, there was no wait to check out. And I was nervous since there was a sign that said from this point the estimated wait time is X. Not something you see in a bookstore, or anywhere else outside Disney. Kudos to Notre Dame on a very well run bookstore operation with tons of great stuff. And in a brilliant move and I do not understand why most schools do not do this, the Friday of a football weekend the bookstore is open until midnight. Smart, very smart!

The official tour of Notre Dame began with a 5 hour and 11 minute movie, with the 5 hour part being typed the same color as the background so you could not see it. At least that is what we told the kids. The 11 minute movie was 10 too long, but that is the typical way these things are and it would only get better from there.

There were many people wanting the 1pm tour, so the group split into three separate tours. We ended up with the low talker in the front group. As we were in the back of this group there were many times it was easier to hear the second guide coming up on our rear. So, at times we got two tours and at other points none.

Anyway, the first stop of note was the Grotto. I am sure there is a significant religious aspect to this, I just do not know what it is, so I will leave that to Google. Nate wanted to light a candle, which Al let him do and then told him he needs his grandmother to explain why people do that. On the way out of the Grotto, he asked to blow out some candles, to which Al replied “you need to watch Goonies and understand how this all works.” Good religious lesson there Al.

The second major stop was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Again, I will leave the religious stuff to others. The third major stop was the Main Building or Golden Dome. Then onto Hesburgh Library and Touchdown Jesus. C’mon Nate, give us that good touchdown signal. After that it was onto Notre Dame Stadium where we were able to walk down the tunnel and out into the stadium, but not too far. Only enough to get within 5 yards of the back of the endzone. Still, very cool.

Tour notes:

  • Notre Dame is a very beautiful campus.
  • Most students live in the dorms and the same dorm for three to four years.
  • Dorm spirit is big…very big!
  • Only half the dorms have air conditioning. FYI – This would be a deal breaker for me.
  • Our tour guide walked backwards the entire time which was very skillful, but her voice couldn’t be heard by people in the front row
  • I will chose this spot to say how truly impressed I am with what Notre Dame does on football weekends. The hospitality and friendliness of the Notre Dame staff was truly incredible. Most places that you walked, there were Notre Dame ambassadors with maps and guidebooks offering to help in any way needed. They had printed booklets with a timeline of all events going on for the weekend, and there were numerous events. This is truly a first class operation and everything was done with the highest level of hospitality and making sure that visitors feel welcome. I have not experienced anything close in the previous 33 trips that we have done. It was very noticeable, highly appreciated, and made us feel very welcome as a first time visitor to Notre Dame. Nice job and those in charge of this operation should be commended on a job not just done but very nicely done.

Mike Brown Tour
We left the tour as it was departing Notre Dame Stadium as we were to meet up with Michael Brown. Mike was a business associate of Al’s for some time, when he abruptly left his job only to tell Al a few weeks later that he was now in the Notre Dame athletic offices. Only when planning this trip did it come out that Michael Brown served as the Notre Dame leprechaun in the years 2000 and 2001. A small detail that Al will never understand why was never told to him, especially since Mike knew all these years about the Quest. He offered to be our host for the weekend and do what he could to make this a truly memorable experience. As much as Mike had “work to do” on Notre Dame’s first home weekend of the year, what he offered to us in scheduling and experience was irreplaceable on trips like these, and likely non duplicable.

Upon meeting him, it is clear why he got the job as the leprechaun. Our tour with Mike, picked up where the official tour ended, only better, with more access, although Al was promised the full leprechaun costume. First stop, inside the Notre Dame locker room. Yes, it is as amazing as you think. Not in terms of luxury or size, but in aura and mystique. This is the place you remember from your childhood watching on tv. TV always showed Notre Dame players coming down the steps, slapping the “Play Like A Champion Today” board below the list of national championships. And not only did we get to see it, but we got to live it. Jake did me proud, really slapping that board like a pro. Very cool. There is a good video of Al and each of the kids running down the stairs doing this. I believe this was the first time we used Facebook Live and we hope every “1” of you who was watching enjoyed it live.

Then it was onto the Guglielmino Athletics Complex (Gug) where the the National Championship trophies and Heisman trophies were on display. This is the football practice facility and it was in use so our stay was cut short.

Onto the Purcell Pavilion, home of the basketball team (and Mike’s office). Basketball practice was about to begin so our timing could not have been better as we saw some coaches, players, etc.

Mike could not resist showing us the mural of him as the leprechaun. It was muted and lacked the vibrancy it deserves. He really needs to get on that and have them paint it and make it much more vibrant and alive. Gate 10 also had a picture of Mike, again faded. Notre Dame….c’mon now. We’re talking living legend here.

At this point, it was time to part ways with Mike until tomorrow at 8am. You will see what happens then and you will not be disappointed, we certainly were not.

Pep Rally & Soccer
After Mike’s grand tour, we decided to get some food, as the evening plan was to attend the pep rally and then the men’s soccer game versus Virginia Tech. The plan also included the outdoor showing of Rudy and then the midnight drummer’s circle, but we did not make it to those.

We decided to take a ride in a golf cart to dinner. This is part of the grand Notre Dame hospitality, courtesy rides. Jake rode up front while the three of us rode backwards on the back. That is why it was the driver who busted Jake for staring at the girls on the way past, or “chicks” as Nate calls them. Hey Al, just what is he watching on tv? You might want to nip that in the bud Al. Good to know that Jake still blushes, but it always goes better when someone else teases Jake about this as opposed to me.

Dinner was at Smashburger on campus. For those keeping track, that is Blaze Pizza for lunch and Smashburger for dinner. The diet is clearly gone this weekend. Dessert for Jake was some iced thing from Starbucks. Yes, Jake had Starbucks, but at least it was coffee and not some Chai tea concoction. But not decaf. Uh oh! Al is curious what kind of parent allows their child to drink coffee? But alas, Al is happy to report to @starbucks that he has recruited yet another lifetime victim of your products and services and he is very much looking forward to his referral fee. Soon. Like today.

After dinner we headed to the pep rally. It was explained to us that most schools have a homecoming game and a parade and all the pomp and circumstance. Notre Dame does not have that. They do this every game. The hospitality, the pep rally, the full monty, every game. Very cool. We had some VIP tickets to the pep rally (thanks Mike) and we watched a bit of that before heading to the soccer game. Jake wanted to get there for warm ups. We compromised by going for kickoff, instead of staying at the pep rally. But Nate did get in some more “chick” watching before we had to leave. Per Al, “This kid is smooth, no idea where he gets that from.”

The soccer game was #1 ranked Notre Dame vs Virginia Tech. Not a great game and Notre Dame won 4-1. Target finally graced us with his presence around half time. Thanks for joining us. We left midway through the 2H when the rain came. Because of the rain we decided to forgo the outdoor showing of Rudy (Al wished for that at the Grotto; there is a God) and since we were not doing that, we decided that for our best interests tomorrow and the early wake up both today and tomorrow, we would let the kids get some sleep.

So we went back to the hotel and utilized the pool, or I should say Jake and Nate did. I do not think Jake goes anywhere without a bathing suit as he is always hoping there is a pool. At least this year I can not say he did not use ours.

As Brett just arrived and was quite hungry, Papa John’s was ordered to the hotel. Brett could not eat it all, so the kids had late night pizza. This will be relevant later.

Friday Recap – The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry
So let us do a recap of the day. The pre trip game plan for Friday was:

Guglielmino Open House – Tunnel Tour – Campus Tour – Trumpets Under the Dome – Marching Band Step Off – Pep Rally – Men’s Soccer vs Va Tech – Rudy outdoor movie – Midnight Drummer’s Circle

What did we not do:
Trumpets Under the Dome
Marching Band Step Off
Rudy outdoor movie
Midnight Drummer’s Circle

Three of the things we did not do were things that every list said must be done at Notre Dame. Instead we did some once in a lifetime stuff, behind the scenes at Notre Dame. That is a trade that I will make every time and I am glad that we did it. I am sure that the Trumpets Under the Dome, Marching Band Step Off, and Midnight Drummer’s Circle were very cool and I am sorry we missed them, but I would not trade our experience for them.

The kids do end up going to bed at a decent hour and all I can say is that after sharing a bed with Jake, I very sorely miss Gator’s paws in my back all night.

Saturday Morning – Rise and Shine Kids
We awoke to a cool and very gray day on Saturday. It was an early wakeup for a game day as we had to be at the Stadium at 8am. Breakfast consisted of La Quinta waffles all around. No Al, they are not gluten free.

Jake was in rare form on this morning as the drive to the Stadium started with many zingers at Brett’s expense. Jake fits right in on the Quest. I was driving, thus no notes, and do not remember them, all I know is that Target was not happy with more participants, who have already completed more items on the Quest checklist than he has.

Pre Game Activities
First stop on this morning was meeting up with Mike for a game day locker room tour. Yes, this is the same locker room we saw yesterday, but today it was set up for game day. Lockers full of gear and complete game plan on the board. Just kidding about the last part. Jake is clearly my son, as he chose to wear his Gator jersey on this day. Not even I did or would do that. We have some very nice pics of Jake in the Notre Dame locker room in a Gator jersey. Priceless! We got to run down the stairs again today, and after having practiced a bit yesterday, showed the staff we knew what we were doing. Also, don’t step on the ND logo on the floor in the locker room…..77 years of bad luck or even worse, it makes Charlie Weis come back.

Next stop, a tour of the Campus Crossroads Project construction. Notre Dame is undergoing a large construction project at the Stadium to create a campus crossroads with academics and athletics coming together. We were given a tour of the new club level seating that is being built. Right now, it is simply a construction site. But you can clearly see the vantage point of different seats but most amazing to us, was the beautiful vista of the Notre Dame campus that being at this height afforded. It was also a cool view of the stadium. The project is actually quite large and the schematics of what it will look like when done are quite amazing. From a stadium standpoint, this is mostly keeping up with where everyone else is at with club level, large scoreboard, etc., but the real beauty in this project is what it will look like just sitting on campus.

Next stop is a coaches session with Coach Bob Elliott. This is something that Notre Dame started a few years back for donors and supporters of the program to allow them access and to get closer to the program. Coach Elliott reviewed the previous game against Texas and walked through the game plan for today’s game versus Nevada. The presentation itself was quite basic, but the Q&A is where this program really shined. The questions posed by the audience were quite sophisticated and Coach Elliott was quite forthcoming (without giving away trade secrets) in his answers. It was a very interesting session and I can see how this would be really interesting as the season progresses. This is a great idea for a college program to implement.

Next up, a session with Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, a very powerful man in college athletics. His presentation was quite brief as he was allowing time for his special guests and the Q&A. Today’s special guests were Bryan Rust and Ian Cole. If you need to google them, you are not a hockey fan. They are members of the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins who played their college hockey at Notre Dame and were back in town for the weekend along with the Stanley Cup. The Cup was not present but would be arriving in time to be on the field during the game. Mr. Rust, Mr. Cole, and Mr. Swarbrick did a brief presentation but then the floor was opened for Q&A. Again, this is where the session really shined and all parties were fairly direct in answering all questions. It is quite easy to see how Mr. Swarbrick arose to such a position as his outlook on issues is with much perspective, quite refreshing, interesting, and actually, quite inspiring. This was especially the case in the questions asked as it relates to officiating and head injuries.

I have to say that the best line came from Bryan Rust who was asked about his day with the Stanley Cup. For those unaware, every player on the Stanley Cup winning team is given one day with the Cup to do whatever they wish. As an aside, some of the stories from these days are quite amazing and definitely worth reading about. Anyway, Bryan was telling the story of playing golf with the Cup and using it as a ball marker on the green. Mr. Swarbrick then pointed out that he is sure that the ball was at the back of the cup when he marked but someone was replaced at the front of the cup. Very cool idea.

Neither Jake nor Nate asked any questions during any session. I think Nate fell asleep, but Jake insists he followed it all and thought it was cool. Of course, Jake is known to try to BS his way through so we will see during his final exam.

These sessions were very interesting and thanks Mike for gaining us access. This further reinforced my opinion from yesterday in just how first class Notre Dame does everything. If other schools are doing something like this, I am quite certain it is not with such a level of depth and size that is being done here.

It was now time to part from Mike Brown and say a very sincere thank you for being such a wonderful host and ambassador. We will all remember our experience here at Notre Dame very fondly in large part because of what he did for us.

Lunch was Blaze Pizza again. Jake stated he was not hungry and would just get fries from Five Guys. So we decided to get Blaze again since what Al got yesterday looked so good and I was craving it. Of course Jake changed his mind when on line and got pizza…again. He would then complain about all the pizza for the rest of the trip. Hey dude, it was your choice!

After the “pizza again” lunch, we spent some time walking around the tailgating and spending some time at the fan fest. And here I will launch one of my very few complaints about Notre Dame and it is a small one, but still. Jake waited on line to kick a field goal and upon arriving at the front of the line was told he could not kick because we had not first signed the waiver which was at a different booth. Why would you not have someone telling people this? Why make us wait on line, then tell us, and then have to wait on the line again? Al and Nate walked away at this point and decided not to get stamps. Ugh.

The Game
We had pre game field passes and wanted to get into the stadium early, so we walked around a bit more but decided to get inside. Field access never gets old and for Jake and Nate it was their first opportunity. Jake found it quite cool. It did seem like Notre Dame allows far more people pre game access to the field than most, but far less people access after kickoff. Jake was able to work his way to the front of the crowd and get some great views of Notre Dame warming up.

At some point we found our way to our seats and the game started. I will not recap the game here. Some trip reports, I include an analysis and recap of the game, and other times I do not. Based on how long this report is already (Beth chimes in with “you are not kidding”) and the fact that this was a 39-10 game and was 39-3 before a meaningless Nevada TD at the end of the game, there is not really much to report on the game itself.

It is enough to know that Jake won his bet with Al on the game. The previous night, somehow a wager was formed on the number of TD’s that Notre Dame would score. It was set at 8 or above for Al and 7 or below for Jake. Definitely slanted to Jake, but the stakes made up for that. Al put up $5, I mean 5 pieces of paper which are not legal tender, but Jake put up having to wear whatever Al says at the next Quest game. Jake feared this would be a dress, but I think it would have been a Georgia jersey. Hey Jake, that anxiety you feel is why you don’t bet what you can not afford to lose. Remember that! It’s one to grow on.

Other game notes:

  • Stands were full a good 15 minutes before kickoff. This is the earliest we have seen except at Nebraska.
  • With a 39-3 lead and 7 minutes left, the student section was still full. I don’t mean mostly full. I mean full. That is impressive. Most student sections clear out at halftime. Not here.
  • Troughs? Really? In the stadium construction, please upgrade the bathrooms. It is no longer necessary to have troughs in stadium bathrooms.
  • No wifi in the stadium, and thus no live streaming
  • We sat on plush seat cushions for the first time versus a$$es on the bench directly. It was nice.

Dinner & Sleep
Dinner was Mario’s Pizza. Just kidding.

After getting out of the stadium lot, which was actually not that bad, the La Quinta desk clerk recommended a place called Volcano Restaurant. I was a bit skeptical walking in, but I have to say the food was excellent. They do serve pizza, but none of us went there. It was a meatball dinner for me and it was really good. I would eat here again, which for those who know me, that is actually quite a compliment.

After that, it was back to the hotel, a not so quick dip in the pool, and then off to bed.

Sunday Morning
Sunday morning was a bit of a sleep in morning as we did not need to be anywhere except for the flight home. After a breakfast of La Quinta waffles again, we said goodbye to Target who was off to who knows where. We headed back to campus to get one last look and pics before heading off to the airport.

A quick drive around campus, some additional photos, the usual school sign picture, and if was off to Chicago Midway.

Some items of note on the drive and Midway:
Is all of Chicago on the wrong side of the tracks? Or is it just the drive to Midway?
Midway airport is not as bad as LGA but it is close.
Midway is small and cramped with not enough food options.
I think Jake’s, “I can’t I’m Jewish” is going to become a thing.

Final Notes
I do not think that Jake & Nate fully appreciate just how lucky they were on this trip in getting to see and do all of the things that we did. I fear the backlash if they select a future Quest trip that is simply us going to a football game. Future disappointment, here we come.

I believe that Jake has bought into the CFQ needs an airplane idea. Hopefully he will continue to work on mom (Beth) to allow for this possibility. Coincidentally, after getting back to NY, I read an article about a company that has come out with a private jet for $2 million. Maybe Al trading in his car is a possibility.

Nevada would go on to a 5-7 season, 3-5 in the Mountain West which placed them 3rd in the West division.

Notre Dame finished a very disappointing season at 4-8, without a bowl appearance. The leads into a 2017 season in which Brian Kelly will most certainly be on one of the hottest seats in college football.

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Photo Gallery
For our Notre Dame photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.

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Bonus Video: Notre Dame Band & Team Entrance

Bonus Video: Campus Crossroads Project
Bonus Video: Nate & Jake in ND Locker Room