That Kyle Brindza earned Notre Dame's game ball on its 17-13 win over Michigan State was both an indication of the state of the team at the time and Brindza's success both as a kicker and a punter.
Brindza's hit every meaningful fourth-quarter field goal in his career and tied a school record with a 52-yarder Oct. 5 against Arizona State. He's averaging 41.5 yards per punt, which puts him in the middle of the pack among FBS punters, but given all that's been asked of him that's hardly a bad thing.
Somewhat surprisingly, Notre Dame's kickoff returners are averaging the 23rd-most yards per return (24.9) among FBS teams, despite not being much of a threat to take one back for a touchdown this year. But legitimately surprising is Notre Dame's traditionally awful punt return has been roughly average this year — T.J. Jones' 10.1 yards per return average puts the Irish No. 48 nationally in that category.
Granted, that's a small sample size — Jones has fair caught most of the punts kicked his way, has made a few mistakes in that regard and has returned just seven punts — but the 71 yards gained on punt returns are more than the Irish had in 2012 (46) and 2011 (48).
Midterm position grade: B+