Summary: David Ruffer, a Lou Groza Award finalist last year and the Irish's sure thing entering this season, is just 4-for-8 on field goals, with three of those misses coming from less than 40 yards and all coming from within 50 yards. But he is far from the biggest problem.
The punt-return game has been atrocious, with Notre Dame ranking next-to-last in the nation with 0.3 yards per return. John Goodman and Theo Riddick have each turned it over once as well. Whether Michael Floyd can add some juice to this unit remains to be seen. But the fact Notre Dame still does not have a reliable punt-return man halfway through the season says it all for a unit that just cannot seem to get it going.
Kyle Brindza and Ben Turk have been solid on kickoffs and punts, with Turk in particular showing progress as the season has moved on. And on a unit that has far bigger problems at the moment, solid has been good enough.
George Atkinson III did return a kickoff for a touchdown that broke open a pivotal Week 3 game against Michigan State, and that has to be remembered. Atkinson has actually been very good at returning kicks, ranking 12th nationally with 28.5 yards per return — not bad for a freshman. And the kickoff coverage team has been solid as well. But there's little to be pleased about beyond kickoffs, and with such an integral part of a football team still littered with question marks six games in, the Irish have to improve before special teams costs them a game.
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