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Special teams are the unit in the spotlight

Matt Lozar | Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Two kickoff returns along with a punt blocked for a touchdown has made Notre Dame’s special teams units a hot topic.

Jerome Brooks’ 100-yard kickoff return Saturday was a turning point in the game and gave Purdue a lead it would never relinquish. Many Irish players on Monday voiced concern on the unit’s performance.

“It’s extremely disappointing, especially in the kickoff area,” linebacker Mike Goolsby said. “It’s one of the rare parts of football that it’s not about game planning or scheming anymore, it’s about an attitude going down there making the hit and making the play, and I don’t think we’ve had that. That’s unacceptable.”

Goolsby called himself out by saying he shouldn’t have sent in his substitute on kickoff return when he felt he needed some time off.

“I didn’t feel like I was pulling my weight,” he said. “That’s something I have to look at and some of the other guys have to look at their effort.”

As for other starters, they’re ready to play more of a role on special teams if asked by the coaches.

“I’m up for playing any special teams personally. It’s ultimately the coaches’ final decision, but it’s not my decision,” said linebacker Derek Curry, who is on the punt team. “Given that opportunity, I’d go out there in a minute.”

Justin Tuck, who isn’t on any special teams unit, felt the same way as Curry.

“I might be asking the coaches to put me on them this weekend,” Tuck said.


Hearing about the game plan going into Saturday doesn’t make Anthony Fasano’s game seem like as much of a surprise.

Looking at the Boilermakers at film exposed holes in the middle of their defense on blitzes and zones which Fasano and Brady Quinn were able to take advantage of.

“I think it was more of what the defense was giving us than more of what I was doing,” Fasano said. “Coach put us in a good situation and me and Brady just worked it out and took what they were giving us.”

Not taking Stanford lightly

Last year’s 57-7 win was Notre Dame’s biggest of the season and the biggest in the Tyrone Willingham era.

But it’s not something the Irish are dwelling on this week.

“I’m not looking back at last year,” Tuck said. “We haven’t looked at film from last year’s game. It doesn’t do justice to the type of team they are right now.”

The Cardinal (3-1) started the season with four straight home games with their only loss coming to USC when the Trojans mounted an impressive second half comeback after Stanford built a 28-17 lead.