Former Fab 50 #1 K/P Kyle Brindza lifts Notre Dame
Brindza overcomes nerves to deliver
Jake Brown | Irish Illustrated/Rivals.com
|September 13, 2012|
Brandon Kornblue watched the process. He didn’t need to see the result. He knew Kyle Brindza had just kicked the biggest field goal of his life.
Kornblue, a former Michigan kicker turned renowned instructor, watched with a trained eye as Brindza lined up the potential game-winning kick for Notre Dame last weekend. Before the ball even got airborne he knew it would split the uprights.
“He had a good follow through,” Kornblue said. “He was just nice and smooth on his approach. Like I said, he just looked confident and comfortable in being there.”
Considering the circumstances that led to the kick, that comfort might be surprising.
Brindza found out about 48 hours before the Purdue game that he would be making the first start of his college career after Nick Tausch went down with a groin injury. Before that the sophomore had been handling only kickoff duties.
When Brindza trotted out to attempt his first field goal in the opening quarter he could hardly have been more nervous. The 40-yard attempt hooked wide left. It might as well have ended up in the student section it started moving left so fast.
“I walked off the field and I thought to myself, ‘Nerves are already gone, what did I do wrong? Correct myself,'” Brindza said. “I was able to go back out there and do what I didn’t do. It was just a mechanical error because of my nerves.”
Brindza returned in the third quarter and drilled a 30-yard attempt, giving Notre Dame a 17-7 lead at the time.
Little did he know that the game outcome would later rest on his foot. Notre Dame squandered that lead before leaning on quarterback Tommy Rees to lead a drive that would leave it at the Purdue 10-yard line, right between the hash marks. Brindza took the field much less jittery than the first quarter even given the circumstances.
Then he converted the attempt. The rest is a haze of emotions.
“It was just a blessing to even be able to go out there,” Brindza said. “My heart was racing. It was just all a blur after that because I couldn’t believe what I had just done in my first career start. After the game when I went up to my mom I ended up finding out that she was crying. It was kind of a joy and excitement for me and my whole family, plus the team.”
Work before the season helped prepare Brindza for such a moment and those, perhaps, to come. It is unclear how quick Tausch will return from his groin injury, the same thing that allowed David Ruffer to capture the starting job a couple seasons ago.
Toward the end of the summer Brindza traveled to Florida for a couple sessions with Kornblue, who made some mechanical tweaks to the placekicking motion. Once camp started Kornblue felt like Brindza had every opportunity to take on more than kickoffs.
“He was right there,” Kornblue said. “He was ready for it, ready for the opportunity. It was no surprise to me that he was able to come through when his team needed him because that’s what he prepared for, that’s what he’s working toward.”
Brindza reaped the rewards of those changes last week against Purdue.
He might continue to do so this weekend against Michigan State. The Canton, Mich., native would relish another opportunity while still soaking in the first. This time the nerves will be long gone.
“It felt amazing,” Brindza said. “For the first career start, first career field goal and first career game-winner at Notre Dame, all in one game, it was just a blessing to even be out there.”