Irish sophomore has come up clutch in games at Oklahoma and USC.
NOTRE DAME — For Kyle Brindza, timing has been everything.
Timing, as in the relentless work he’s put into his placekicking.
Timing, as in the critical games and moments when he’s saved Notre Dame’s football season.
The sophomore from Canton, Mich., isn’t perfect — he’s 23 of 31 in 2012 — but his critical makes certainly have outweighed his misses.
“He’s been clutch for us. If there’s one word, he’s been pretty clutch for us,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “When we’ve need that big kick when the game was on the line, he’s delivered every single time.”
And on his eight misses — none of which, thankfully, have been costly — Brindza knows when he reaches the sidelines, he’ll find patience and reassurance.
If a misfire were to happen Monday night in the BCS Championship game against Alabama, there won’t be a verbal beat-down waiting for him.
“One of the things I’ve always learned, Coach Kelly has been able to instill that into me
instead of coming up to me after a missed kick, he’ll be able to come up to me, ask me what’s going on through my head,” Brindza said. “He’s just able to be there to help me with my confidence and to allow me to know everyone’s there for me, counting on me.”
Much like a golfer has to forget the putt which slides right of the hole or a free throw shooter who bounces the ball off the back iron, Brindza knows he has to put the miss aside and move on.
He won’t forget it, but he won’t linger on it, either. It’s a “clean slate.”
“You can’t get rid of the miss right away. You have to understand what you did wrong, then get rid of it,” Brindza said. “Exactly like when you miss a putt in golf ... ‘What did you do wrong? ... Don’t do that next time.’ Wipe it away.
“It’s pretty much understanding the fundamentals of what you did wrong. You go out there next time, do the correct fundamentals.”
Brindza’s relaxed — almost carefree — and level-headed approach is refreshing to Kelly. It’s his kickers’ character.
“What I like about him, he doesn’t get rattled. He may miss one here or there, but there’s generally not a pattern for him,” Kelly said. “He will break that pattern of missing one and he’ll come back and make one.
“That’s good to have somebody that doesn’t get down on himself and can fight through a miss here or there. And he’s only going to get better.”
In Notre Dame’s most tense situations and most intense spotlight games, Brindza has shined. He connected on three field goals at Oklahoma and was a whopping 5 of 6 at USC.
At home against Pittsburgh, the near-debacle, triple-overtime win, Brindza hammered home a trio of 3-pointers, including one in OT.
When he’s not kicking, Brindza keeps his mind alive by following the game, paying attention to the situations and mentally keeping himself poised for the next call from Kelly.
Brindza’s mental clock may go off and he’ll find practice net to keep loose.
Sitting still, though, is not an option.
“I’m a pacer, I wouldn’t say a nervous pacer
we’re all football players, wanting to know what’s going in the game every second, even when on sidelines trying to listen to what’s going on, what the coach is saying to the players on the sidelines,” Brindza said. “I’m always analyzing myself, always getting mental reps. Everything is on you. I love it when people put odds against me. I’m one of those kids who invites pressure because you have to make it.
“There’s also a sense of sit down, relax
it’s not a situation where you get five plays to go out there to make a kick. You get one chance. You truly have to sit back and relax.”