‘Special’ Unit: Notre Dame’s special teams coming up big in recent weeks

Published: Nov. 4, 2023 at 1:43 AM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Special teams play can often go overlooked when evaluating a team’s success on the football field.

But for the Fighting Irish, their recent performance in that phase of the game has been hard to ignore.

When discussing the game, we often use the phrase “both sides of the ball,” referencing the offense and defense. But that’s leaving out a crucial third phase of the game where the Irish have been excelling in recent weeks.

In both of Notre Dame’s last two games, we’ve seen the special teams unit come up big. Against the rival Trojans, it was Jadarian Price taking back a 99-yard kickoff return, slamming the door shut on any hopes of a USC comeback.

“We can be one of the most dominant special teams units in the nation, and I think we showed that,” Price said. “I’m very blessed that we got to have the opportunity to go out there and execute the plan.”

Then, a double dose of high-quality special teams against Pittsburgh. The day’s first touchdown came from Chris Tyree, shaking all 11 Pitt Panthers as he danced his way to the end zone on a punt return.

“We’re trying to reach our full potential every week, no matter what,” Tyree said. “It doesn’t matter who or where we’re playing. That’s going to be our goal for every Saturday.”

Later that game, they’d take advantage of their opponents lack of special teams savvy, recovering a muffed punt for another score.

“I love what the special teams unit is doing,” said head coach Marcus Freeman. “Those things are crucial for our team to have success.”

“You know, trying to be situational masters,” said special teams coordinator Marty Biagi. “On special teams, you don’t really know each week what play could all of a sudden be the difference. When there’s an opportunity to make the play, make sure we perform.”

Right now, Notre Dame ranks in the top 20 in total kick return and punt return yards. Clearly, they’re doing well their first-year special teams coordinator Biagi.