Notre Dame Stadium was rocking, the product of Tarean Folston's go-ahead touchdown Saturday against Navy. With under four minutes to go, all the Irish had to do was keep Navy out of the end zone, and they'd hang on for a four-point win.
While Navy's option offense executed almost perfectly against Notre Dame, it's not the kind of offense that could generate 70 or 80 yards in about three minutes and 45 seconds.
But Navy ran the kickoff after Folston's touchdown back to midfield. A game-winning drive, all of a sudden, was doable.
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While Notre Dame escaped with the win, it was a reminder of the team's issues in kickoff coverage.
Notre Dame's kickoff coverage unit has allowed the seventh-highest average yards per return among FBS teams (26 yards per return). Kyle Brindza's generally been good at kicking deep for touchbacks — teams have returned 22 kicks against Notre Dame, which has kicked off 43 times.
But when Brindza can't force a touchback, those coverage problems return.
"I think kickoff coverage has a lot to do with being more physical than the return team," coach Brian Kelly explained. "We've just got to get back to being more physical. We were a little hesitant trying to get off blocks without being more physical. We're looking and feeling our way through it."
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Changes could be coming to the Irish kickoff coverage unit, with Navy's Marcus Thomas taking that fourth-quarter kick back 49 yards the final straw.
"We maybe got caught up with having too much speed and not enough power on that team," Kelly said. So I'll take a good look at it over the next 24 hours and we'll get some guys down there that are going to be a little bit more physical."