NOTRE DAME — Now Kyle Brindza has to pay attention to the entire football game, not just when Notre Dame comes close to scoring.
To Brindza, a junior from Plymouth, Mich., the game was fairly easy last season — follow the Irish offense and when it approached scoring range, ramp up and get ready for an extra-point or field goal.
Now, as the designated “combo” kicker for team, his attention span is much wider and much more heightened.
“Yeah, last year was like, alright, we’re in scoring position, I’ve got to get going,” Brindza said Wednesday, Sept. 11. “I’m always by (special teams) Coach (Scott) Booker, able to be on the ready more.”
The double-duty is a responsibility Brindza had hoped would develop ever since he came to Notre Dame. He was able to beat out Nick Tausch for both jobs through spring and summer camps.
“I anticipated that the whole time. I came here as a combo guy and expected to be a combo guy here soon,” Brindza said as the Irish try to bounce back from a 41-30 loss at Michigan when it plays at Purdue on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.
A year ago, Notre Dame needed a 27-yard Brindza field goal with seven seconds left to knock off the Boilermakers 20-17.
In Ann Arbor, Brindza drilled field goals of 44 and 24 yards in the second quarter and a 40-yarder which cut the Wolverines’ lead to 34-30 with 9:15 to play. He also punted twice for a 40-yard average.
Keeping both skills sharp — physically and mentally — has taken time.
“I’m a lot more confident since the spring game. It’s just lots of repetition and muscle memory,” said Brindza, who keeps close track of how many times he’ll kick or punt in practice so not to overwork his leg. He says he never tests his limit — when he hits his target number, he’s done.
“I’m able to understand my body more. I’ve always had that strong leg,” he said. “I already had the muscle memory of kicking. Now it’s just understanding punting.”
Brindza’s weekly regimen includes punting on Tuesdays, kicks and kickoffs on Wednesday before “putting everything together” on Thursdays.
Keeping a rhythm and balance for both duties was tough at first, but he’s more than confident on game days.
“It’s kind of like when your driver’s on and your putting is off, or your putting is on and your driver is off. You have to find that threshold,” Brindza said. “I’m a mental kind of guy ... I love pressure. That’s my mentality. I’ve done it a thousand times, why not do it again?
“If I do my mechanics right, it’s gonna be a great ball.”