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Notre Dame

What: Blue-Gold Game
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: NBC Sports

Lineman shortage alters Blue-Gold Game

– Notre Dame will run a modified version of a game when the Irish close spring practice with the Blue-Gold Game on Saturday.

A lack of depth on the offensive line means the Irish will use an offense-vs.-defense format for the second straight year.

“We just don’t have enough linemen,” coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday after the team’s final practice of the spring. “We’ve got four coming in. We’ve got two preferred walk-ons next year, so we will have six linemen coming in next year and graduate just one. Next year, we will have the depth to break the squads up.”

Notre Dame was missing center Nick Martin, who is recovering from a knee injury, when practice opened March 3. The Irish lost right guard Christian Lombard in the third practice March 19 when he fell and dislocated his right wrist in a non-contact drill and required surgery.

Notre Dame was missing Steve Elmer on Wednesday as the left guard was held out because of a stomach illness that has been spreading around the team, Kelly said. Elmer is expected to be able to play Saturday.

The format pitting the offense against the defense means first- and second-team players will be mixed and matched and there will be a special scoring system.

The offense gains the normal six points on touchdowns, three on field goals, two for two-point conversions and one for extra points, but it will get two points for each pass of 20 or more yards, runs of 15 or more yards and for back-to-back first downs.

The defense will get seven points for turnovers forced before the 50-yard line, four points for stops before the 50, three for turnovers after the 50, two for stops after the 50 and three-and-outs and one point if it forces the offense to kick a field goal.

The game will have two 12-minute quarters in the first half with normal clock stoppage, and after a 15-minute halftime, the Irish will play a 12- to 15-minute second half with a running clock, depending on how much time is left in the NBC Sports broadcast.

Kelly said Everett Golson and Malik Zaire will share quarterback duties with walk-on Charlie Fiessinger likely to play toward the end of the game.

Even though Notre Dame cannot play a true game, Kelly said there is plenty of value of using the 15th practice session for the Blue-Gold Game over another practice.

“I definitely think it is helpful to have a game-like format with referees, a crowd and that scenario,” Kelly said. “It is definitely one where the kids have to focus in a game-like atmosphere. For me, there is no question that it is helpful.

“If there is only going to be a hundred people there and you don’t have the facility to do it, you can get by with a scrimmage. I think we can really create a game-like atmosphere at Notre Dame.”