Notre Dame got a boost in its kickoff return by making a change in a 31-13 win over Michigan State on Saturday when George Atkinson III returned a kick 89 yards for a touchdown.
And coach Brian Kelly could look to do the same in the punt return game.
The Irish began the season with receiver Theo Riddick handling punt returns, but after a poor showing against South Florida, sure-handed John Goodman was given the duty against Michigan.
Goodman, a backup receiver and former Bishop Dwenger standout, hasn't been a threat to return punts since he took over the duties last year. The senior has gained only 80 yards on 23 returns in his career.
But if Kelly does decide to make a change, it will not because of Goodman's low return number. It will be because he muffed a Michigan State punt on Notre Dame's 21 with 4:28 to play as the Irish clung to a 28-13 lead.
"Obviously, we're disappointed that we put the ball on the ground again in punt returns," Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. "We'll have to talk about that later (Sunday) when we have our meetings on special teams personnel. We feel like John has great hands. He obviously turned the ball over late. We'll have to evaluate it. It's not certainly where we want to be. It's not like we have a number of guys we can go to either. We felt like Theo and Goody were our two best. We may have to look at other players at this point. I really haven't decided that."
Kelly said backup receiver Robby Toma, who plays behind Riddick in the slot, could be an option.
Notre Dame put on an incredible display of run defense against Michigan State.
The Irish held the Spartans to 29 rushing yards on 23 carries. It was the lowest rushing total Michigan State had against Notre Dame since going 21 yards in a 31-8 loss in 1987.
Kelly pointed to a number of players as the reason for the strong run defense.
"We got really good play at the nose. I think when you talk about (Louis) Nix and getting (Sean) Cwynar back, that position was really strong for us on Saturday," Kelly said. "I think we always talk about it, but both of our defensive ends were able to take on some big tackles at Michigan State. Ethan (Johnson) and (Kapron Lewis-Moore) played very well against the run. (Linebacker) Troy Niklas who came in as a true freshman kept the ball inside of them. It was really those three guys in the front, the nose and two defensive ends, were outstanding."
Lynch's big day
Freshman Aaron Lynch didn't play a down in the loss to Michigan.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder made up for lost time in the win over Michigan State.
Lynch had six quarterback hurries, five tackles and sack and forced a fumble against the Spartans.
"I think right now he shows himself very well as a guy that can just get after the quarterback," Kelly said of Lynch's position in the defensive line rotation. "He's relentless and very, very physical. He doesn't beat you necessarily with speed off the edge; he beats you with power. He's just a relentless player.
"Now, as you know, he can only play about a half dozen snaps because he's got to tap out, too. This is a development of him. But it gives us great depth at that position. (The Spartans) threw the ball over 50 times. We were still able in our four-man rush to get a pass-rush within there."
Looking for clarification
Kelly spent a good amount of time with an official on the field during Notre Dame's win over Michigan State on Saturday after receiver TJ Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after a touchdown.
Jones put his hands together to form the leprechaun logo on his gloves and showed it to the crowd.
Kelly said he believed the gesture was allowed on the celebration rules. The Big Ten officials working the game apparently did not.
"We're going to have to get further clarification," Kelly said. "I was told specifically that that was not a penalty. So now we're going to have to open up a line of communication to find out where that miscommunication lies. TJ simply put his hands together on the back of his gloves as the Fighting Irishmen. He was just showing it to the crowd. He didn't jump into the crowd, he didn't high five, he simply put his hands up. We have to get a dialogue with both the Big Ten and the Big East and find out where the miscommunication is."