In this installment of Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy, I get to look at the punters and kickers. Boring? Hardly. Remember Purdue or Pitt or Stanford? Those W’s don’t happen without the physics of foot meeting ball meeting air meeting wind meeting rain. You get the point. We take touchdowns for granted until our placekicker gets the yips and we think Offensive Coordinator Chuck Martin has everything in hand until we can’t count on a solid punt to pin the other team back against their goal line. Fortunately for the Irish, it looks like we’re in good shape this season. And the enemy, looks like they’re not bad either. Let’s get it on.
THE IRISH: KICKER
When you have a preseason Lou Groza Award watch-listee, you pick him for Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy. Kyle Brindza is that guy. Going into the 2013, the junior kicker out of Canton, Michigan (sucks!), displayed a knack for hanging in there last season, his first at place-kicker, and hanging points on the board when they mattered. Against Purdue, Pitt, and Oklahoma, Kyle shook off misses to either win it (Purdue), keep us in the game (Pitt – 2nd OT) or keep the pressure on (Oklahoma and Stanford). His twenty-three FG’s last season broke John Carney‘s Notre Dame record. He’s so good, he makes Vince Vaughn smile.
THE ENEMY: KICKER
Another Groza Award-listee, the Skunkbears’ Brendan Gibbons is the opposing kicker we need to watch out for. He’d be my pick regardless, but when you throw in a healthy dose of grudge, history, and lecture-circuit rubber chicken smack talk, a guy like Brendan Gibbons really scares me. He’s 30 of 40 on his career, with a long of 52 yards. Here’s a video of him beating Michigan State. I selected it because it was the only YouTube video I found that didn’t have Michigan’s obnoxious fight song in it. Anyway, here he is, beating Sparty:
THE IRISH: PUNTER
This is a punt, pardon the intended pun, please. While you could make a good case to see Kyle Brindza punting the ball, too, I am going to go with Alex Wulfeck in this spot. A graduate of Wake Forest, Alex still has a year of eligibility left, so he gets to play for Notre Dame. Because NCAA. In all honesty, seeing as how thin the Irish are at punter, any experience is good for the boys in blue and gold, and Alex’s seventy punts for 2780 yards in 2011 were enough to get him on to Phil Steele’s third-team preseason All-American this season for the Irish. Plus, he’s got some fight in him.
THE ENEMY: PUNTER
I want to dislike Michigan State’s Mike Sadler because Michigan State, but how can you dislike a kid who makes the preseason list for the Ray Guy Award while carrying a 4.0 GPA in applied engineering sciences and supply-chain management? Anyway, Sadler averaged 43.32 yards per punt last season and totaled 3,422 total punting yards. Here he is against Michigan (sucks!), employing that most valuable of Spartan special team skills: chicanery.