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Brindza overcomes misses, hits late kicks

Chris Allen | Thursday, November 8, 2012

Notre Dame sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza remembers his first collegiate field goal attempt. In the first quarter of this season’s home opener against Purdue, Brindza lined up a 40-yard field goal, strode to the ball – and it sailed wide left.

In his first season as Notre Dame’s full-time kicker, Brindza said he has had to learn to deal with failure.

“I just go out there [on the next kick] and remember what I did wrong,” Brindza said. “I go out there and try to make sure that I don’t do that, fully make sure I focus on my mechanics, and make sure the ball goes through the uprights.”

Since that miss in his first attempt, the sophomore has been a dependable member of the Irish special teams and contributed many clutch kicks at the end of a handful of Notre Dame wins. After his opening miss in his debut against Purdue, Brindza clinched a 20-17 Irish victory with a 27-yard field goal in the waning seconds. Brindza credited Irish coach Brian Kelly for providing him with confidence after a missed field goal.

“He comes up to me [after a miss], tells me what I did wrong, tells me what I need to do right,” Brindza said. “Truly, he always gives me a pat on the back and tells me he has confidence in me. It’s a quick conversation, but he always instills confidence in me.”

In recent weeks, that confidence has been on display in Irish wins over Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. Despite missing a field goal in both games, Brindza helped secure an Irish win against the Sooners with two long field goals from 44 and 46 yards in the fourth quarter. Against the Panthers, Brindza made a 37-yard field goal in the first overtime period that would have ended Notre Dame’s unbeaten season had it missed. The sophomore said being able to restore his teammate’s trust in late-game situations was important.

“Me being able to go in there [against Oklahoma] and prove to the team that they can rely on me, that was huge,” Brindza said. “Them having the confidence in me to throw me back out there, it was just a great blessing to be able to do that.”

In addition to kicking field goals for Notre Dame, Brindza serves as the team’s kickoff specialist – a role he also performed in 2011 – and has recorded 21 touchbacks on the year. Brindza said serving as the kickoff specialist as a freshman helped him adjust to the college game.

“Just being able to adjust to the speed of the game, and the size of the players really,” Brindza said. “I mean, as a kicker you don’t really have to hit many people so I guess you don’t have to really worry about the size. But it helped to go out there and kind of get an aspect of where I needed to hit the ball in order to make a field goal.”

In his second year, Brindza has overcome early misses and periodic inconsistencies to become a reliable option at his position. The sophomore attributes his growth to the maturity to pay attention to the details of kicking.

“In kicking, just like in the game of golf, there’s the littlest things that can drift and cause you to mishit the ball or even miss the ball,” he said. “It’s just the little things that you need to incorporate, and have the maturity to … work on the tiniest bits of your form.”

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu