A kick that will ease some pain for Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gotta feel good about the way Kyle Brindza’s Notre Dame football career came to an end.

An impressive Irish effort in Tuesday’s Music City Bowl came down to a 32-yard field goal from the left hash mark. LSU called two timeouts trying to rattle the 6-foot-1, 236-pound senior kicker from Canton, Mich.

Heck, if everything that has happened to Brindza through a rocky season hasn’t bothered him, why would a few measly timeouts cause a problem?

Don’t worry, nothing but net. Irish win, 31-28.

How fitting that he was awarded the game ball after the victory.

“Real happy for Kyle,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “That’s the way he came into Notre Dame. We recruited him out of high school off the heels of him kicking game-winners in high school state championships.

“It was a great way for him to finish his career.”

What made it even better was the trajectory his career had followed this season.

At one time considered one of the best kickers in the country, this year he converted just 14 of 27 field goals. He missed two, as well as an extra point, in the overtime loss to Northwestern, which also coincided with Malik Zaire replacing Hunter Smith as the holder.

It was a bleak time for Brindza.

Not only was he upset with himself for missing the boots that weighed heavily into the outcome, but he was upset with the decision to switch the holder, while also lacking confidence in the workings of the battery.

So … Two timeouts and an alignment on the left hash mark – where Zaire had run to set up the kick – were mere formalities.

“Icing doesn’t really bother me,” Brindza said. “As coach Kelly always said, there are life lessons that we’ve all learned.

“I went through a lot of adversity – great career… (but) it hurt me a lot the last couple weeks. This game is just me (and) Malik clicking on all cylinders.”

“What was important for me is that I got the hold down,” Zaire said. “In previous games, I took the accountability for most (of the problems). I’m glad when it came down to it, we could prove that we could get off a field goal successfully.”

Brindza refused to let any negative thoughts seep into his mind.

“When I’m out there, my mind’s always clear; clear as day,” said Brindza, who admitted to letting the adversity bother him earlier in the season. “I finally shook off all the cobwebs and was able to trust (Zaire). That’s how we got it done.

“To be honest, I really don’t need to pick a side (of the field). At the end of the day, it’s how you have self-confidence.

“The past couple weeks, it’s been hard on me. Coach Kelly kept coming up in my ear saying, ‘We need you. Be confident in yourself. You had that confidence in yourself when you came here. Don’t let it go to waste now.’

“For me to be confident, put it on the left hash mark, right or middle; I knew it was going to go through.”

Brindza was able to walk away from the Irish program with a smile, but it was as much for his contribution to the team as it was for himself.

“It felt great, not just for me, but to leave a program so historic in this sort of fashion is a blessing for me,” he said. “To be able to help win a game for my teammates is a real blessing.”

It’s a memory that will ease a lot of pain.

alesar@sbtinfo.com

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Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza (27) watches his game-winning field goal that gave the Irish a 31-28 victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)