Notebook: Brindza comes through in clutch

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- He is so un-kicker-like, at least the stereotype, and if it isn’t apparent enough from his fullback-ish 6-foot-1, 236-pound frame, Notre Dame junior Kyle Brindza will let you know about it.

Over and over.

For instance, he has four tackles this year and eight for his career.

“I’m into yoga,” he offered after kicking three field goals, including a 51-yarder to put the game out of reach, Saturday in Notre Dame’s 23-13 Senior Day victory over BYU on a blustery afternoon.

He does the stereotypical kicker things pretty well too, especially under pressure. The fourth-quarter boot, that likely would have cleared 60 yards, makes him 12-of-13 in his career in game-winning, game-tying, overtime or fourth-quarter lead-extending field goals. His only such miss came versus Temple in the season opener with the Irish leading, 28-6.

Saturday he had to talk Irish head coach Brian Kelly into putting him in that position again, even with his track record. Kelly had passed on a couple of potentially long attempts earlier in the game, when Brindza would have been kicking into a 20 mile-per-hour wind that was gusting to 35. Brindza acknowledged that in warm-ups, he was only able to max out in the 40- to 43-yard range going into the north end zone.

But going south was a different story for Brindza, who earlier connected on two 26-yard attempts.

“I was definitely urging him,” Brindza said of Kelly, “because they called out the punt team. I had a disgusted look on my face, saying ‘Why are we punting? Let’s just kick it.’

“He said, ‘Are you sure?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, of course. I told you guys that.’ So their confidence in me helped me have confidence more.”

Brindza, who is 13-of-18 overall this season, is not only more confident, but he’s stronger. Even taking on punting chores this season — in addition to place-kicking and kicking off — Brindza said he feels fresher than last season when he felt a November fade.

“Just understanding my body is the biggest thing,” he said. “I take care of my body so much more than I have in the past, and knowing more kicks doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get better. It’s more form. So I hardly even kick during the week.

“I get stronger each week. I work out with the guys, and I don’t do just kicker workouts, swinging my leg or stretching, but actually doing everything with the guys.”

Personnel matters

*Starting center Nick Martin, already playing with a broken right (snapping) hand, left the game at the 1:47 mark of the first quarter with a hyperextended knee and did not return.

He was replaced by fellow junior Matt Hegarty, a left-handed snapper.

*Fifth-year senior captain Zack Martin, Nick’s older brother, made his 50th consecutive start on Saturday. He can break former Irish offensive tackle Sam Young’s school record next Saturday at Stanford.

*Holder Luke Massa wore uniform No. 78 Saturday as a tribute to his late high school teammate at Cincinnati St. Xavier, offensive tackle Matt James, who would have been part of this Irish senior class.

James passed away in April 2010 in a spring break accident, two months before he was set to enroll at Notre Dame.

Massa, also a backup wide receiver, normally wears No. 14.

*Freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith wore uniform No. 13, fellow outside linebacker Danny Spond’s old number. Spond, a senior who started for the Irish last season during their run to the national title game, had to give up football in August because of debilitating hemiplegic migraines.

Notable numbers

*Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is 15-2 in his career coming off a bye week, including 2-0 this season.

*Kelly ran his record to 4-0 on Senior Day. Here’s how ND’s other coaches have fared: Jesse Harper 5-0; Knute Rockne 9-1-2; Hunk Anderson 1-2; Elmer Layden 5-2; Hugh Devore: 1-1; Ed McKeever 1-0; Frank Leahy 10-0-1; Terry Brennan: 5-0; Joe Kuharich 3-1; Ara Parseghian 10-1; Dan Devine 5-1; Gerry Faust 2-3; Lou Holtz 7-4; Bob Davie 4-1; Tyrone Willingham 2-1 and Charlie Weis 3-2.

*Kelly on Saturday became the first Irish coach since Dan Devine (1975-80) to win eight games or more in each of his first four seasons on the job at ND. Devine, in fact, is the only other Irish coach to do so.

*The Irish improved their record in games in which it snows to 13-1-3 all time, including 9-1-1 at home. The only time ND lost a snow game was in 1895, when Indianapolis Artillery shut out the Irish, 18-0.

*Irish senior wide receiver TJ Jones extended his school record of consecutive games with at least one catch to 38. He had five Saturday, giving him 170 in his career and moving him into a tie with Rhema McKnight for fifth place on ND’s career list.

His streak of consecutive games with a TD reception ended at seven, one short of the school record.

*Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt had a sack among his seven tackles Saturday and hopped over Renaldo Wynn into fifth place on the all-time sack list with 20.

*Two NFL teams sent reps to scout the game — the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. | 574-235-6112 | Twitter: @hansenNDInsider

Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza (27) boots a 51-yard field goal during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER