Pinstripe Bowl brings several Notre Dame players home for the holidays
BY LaMOND POPE Sun-Times Media December 23, 2013 8:38PM
Notre Dame v Stanford
Updated: January 25, 2014 6:09AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Linebacker Carlo Calabrese’s cellphone kept blowing up after Notre Dame learned it would play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
‘‘I had a bunch of texts come my way,’’ said Calabrese, who is from Verona, N.J. ‘‘ ‘Can I get a ticket? Can I get a ticket?’ I said, ‘Yes, let me work on it.’
‘‘There’s going to be a lot of people there, a lot of friends, a lot of family. It’s going to be great.’’
The Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday against Rutgers marks a bit of a homecoming for Calabrese and cornerback Bennett Jackson. The two are among five Irish players from New Jersey. Notre Dame
(8-4) also has three players from New York on its roster.
‘‘It means a lot,’’ said Jackson, who is from Hazlet. ‘‘A lot of my family and friends and close followers, supporters, didn’t really get a chance to come to a lot of games. Now I get a chance to see them. I can stay in New Jersey a little longer and see my family. It’s really great that I get to play at home in front of all my family.’’
Playing close to home is one thing. Playing at Yankee Stadium is an added bonus for Calabrese.
‘‘Just seeing the Yankee sign is pretty cool,’’ he said. ‘‘Growing up being a Yankee fan, it’s pretty cool playing football in that stadium.’’
The reunions and the ballpark are nice side stories, but coach Brian Kelly made it clear the Irish aren’t taking Rutgers (6-6) lightly.
‘‘We’re 8-4, so I don’t know how good we are,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘If we were 12-0, we can probably listen to that.
‘‘We have to play well or we are going to get beat. I told our guys: ‘[Rutgers is] from New Jersey. This is a big game for them. We have to play well.’ If we go out there and don’t play well, we’re not good enough to beat Rutgers.’’
Kelly compared the Scarlet Knights to Pittsburgh, which beat Notre Dame 28-21 on Nov. 9.
‘‘We have their full attention and focus on football,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘It hasn’t been 100 percent on football and Rutgers; it’s been one eye toward Rutgers and the rest toward their academics and finishing up their exams. We should have all their attention on Rutgers from this point forward.’’