NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

January 5, 2013

Special teams: Notre Dame and Alabama

A quick review of the rules of college football dictate that someone is going to have to score for a winner to be declared between Notre Dame and Alabama in the BCS championship game Monday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Touchdowns may come at a premium with teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 (in a tie, anyway) in red-zone defense. So that makes scoring quite a feat, and also very possibly quite a feet, with the kickers from each side assuming a central role — whether it’s good or it’s no good.

Opportunities for points cannot be squandered. Opportunities to pin the other offense deep, and force it to grind out a drive against an unforgiving defense, must be executed well.

And just as one explosive play in the return game could turn everything, one implosive play on a field goal or a punt — a miss, a block, you name it — could have either team kicking itself all offseason.

Irish principals: K Kyle Brindza, P Ben Turk.

Notre Dame cannot, for any fathomable reason, allow points to trickle off the scoreboard thanks to kicking-game mistakes. Its operation must be flawless, and Brindza has not necessarily been that in 2012.

Brindza has hit 23 field goals, which was a single-season record for the Irish, breaking John Carney’s mark of 21 that had stood since 1986. So he’s prolific. And he has been clutch, with a game-winner against Purdue and important late kicks against Michigan and Pittsburgh. But he has missed 8 of 31 tries, with seven of the eight coming from between 34 and 43 yards.

The five field goals, including a career-best 52-yarder, at USC? That has to be the norm and the expectation for the title game.

Turk, meanwhile, has had well-documented ups and downs as the Irish punter. He, too, must be more up than down for Notre Dame not to suffer in the field-position battle. He has averaged 40.6 yards per punt with 13 dropped inside the 20-yard line. It’s a good night for a career night from Turk.

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