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Notre Dame looking for a home-field advantage vs. Purdue

Quarterback Everett Golsknows he’ll be nervous his first start Notre Dame Stadium Saturday. | Joe Raymond~AP

Quarterback Everett Golson knows he’ll be nervous in his first start at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday. | Joe Raymond~AP

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The facts: 2:30, Ch. 5, 890-AM.

Updated: October 9, 2012 3:03PM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly wants to make Notre Dame Stadium a place in which opponents feel a sense of awe, reverence and intimidation.

What he doesn’t want is for his own players to feel that way.

“I felt at times we ran into the stadium like we were running into the Basilica, or running into the Grotto,” Kelly said. “We’re running into the stadium — a football stadium. I want us to feel comfortable in there. We were only in there six or seven times last year.”

To combat that, Kelly said he’ll hold every Thursday workout this season inside the stadium, instead of on the nearby practice field, turf conditions be damned.

“I want some energy,” he said. “It almost seems like there’s too much reverence there. It’s Notre Dame Stadium, it’s a football game. We want some energy.”

As for striking a bit more fear into the hearts of opponents, such as Purdue in the home opener Saturday? That’s a long-term project. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last month he was tired of hearing opposing ADs rave about how much they enjoy playing at Notre Dame Stadium — where piping in a little Ozzy Osbourne on third down has been a hot-button issue, and where the yellow-jacketed ushers are famous for asking the home fans to sit down and be quiet.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Irish are a pedestrian 17-16 at home in the last five seasons.

In response to that, the university announced this week its “Take a StaND” initiative, which simply asks Irish fans to — gasp! — take a more active role from the bleachers. A bold course at a staid university.

Still, Kelly knows that his players can affect that atmosphere more than any cutesy public-relations campaign.

“If we do a better job on third down and get people off the field and score touchdowns, I think the place will go crazy,” he said. “We just have to get it to go crazy.”

Of course, it doesn’t matter how many practices the 22nd-ranked Irish hold in the stadium. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson is going to feel some butterflies in his first home game as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. His solid if unspectacular effort in the 50-10 win last week against Navy — 12-for-18, 144 yards, one touchdown, one interception — should go a long way toward calming his nerves, but it’s hard to prepare mentally for the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

“It’s going to be tremendous; it’s going to be real crazy,” Golson said. “Playing in Dublin, my nerves were a little low because we didn’t really know anyone in Dublin — or at least I didn’t. So playing in front of 81,000 fans that you actually know, the nerves are going to be there. I’m just going to stay calm and stay the course.”

He’s hardly the only player making his debut at Notre Dame Stadium as a major contributor. Twenty-one Irish players saw their first collegiate action against Navy, and the Purdue game will be every bit as big a deal to them. So even with the hype of the Dublin game still in their rear-view mirror, and even with back-to-back games against top-20 opponents Michigan State and Michigan looming, the Irish don’t expect the Purdue game to be a trap game.

“I wouldn’t say we’ll get caught flat-footed,” cornerback Bennett Jackson said. “We’re excited for every opportunity we get to be on the field. We look at each week as a new door to open, and you’ve got to open each door to get to the next one.”

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