Kelly 'blisters' Irish special teams

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had harsh words for his special teams on Tuesday, and not because of the fake field goal that Michigan State pulled off for the overtime win.

Instead, Kelly is upset with the Irish return game. Notre Dame averaged just 17.8 yards per return on five kickoffs against the Spartans and is currently 76th nationally in that category.

"Those guys got blistered [Monday]," Kelly said. "It was awful. Our kickoff return, we've got to run better.

"Cierre Wood has been put on notice that he'd better hit that thing with some enthusiasm, and we have some guys that quite frankly have got to do a better job if they're not going to find themselves on the bus. It's an effort thing, it's attention to focus and detail from our guys on special teams that we're going to demand from our guys."

Some other hits from Kelly's weekly news conference:

  • Defensive line coach/special teams coordinator Mike Elston has returned from the viral illness that kept him out of the last two games.

  • Safety Jamoris Slaughter, who's missed the last two starts with an ankle injury, should return against Stanford. Kelly said Slaughter, who ran in for Zeke Motta during the Michigan State game when Motta had an equipment issue, is moving around a lot better.

  • Receiver Theo Riddick had a breakout game against Michigan State, just as Kelly predicted. "He did all the right things, similar to this football team," Kelly said. "They're doing the right things. We've got to make a few more plays here and there. We've got to play cleaner in certainly situations. But I think in a large degree, I feel Riddick is what our football team is about, working hard every single day, and you're going to see success."

  • Kelly said quarterback Dayne Crist is getting better but has one area he needs to improve. "He had 13 incomplete passes that were all ball-control throws. When we clean that up, he will possess the things necessary to lead our football team as far as we can go, and that's the area in his maturation. He is making the big throws. He is making the big field throws, the vertical throws, the dig routes. He's doing a great job on his progression reads now. It's the ball-control throws that we have to make, and those are the ones that consequently can end up winning the game for you."