(MCT) — LOS ANGELES — Kyle Brindza was calm, cool and collected whenever he lined up to kick a field goal.
When it came to tackling a runner breaking free on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter of a close game, it was a different story for the Notre Dame sophomore.
“I was a deer in the headlights, but I realized I needed to make a tackle for this team,” Brindza said of forcing USC’s Marqise Lee out of bounds after a 43-yard return in the fourth quarter during the Irish’s 22-13 victory Saturday night at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “I was lucky enough to be able to get out there and they pushed him out to my side and I was able to get the tackle.”
In addition to the big tackle, Brindza kicked five field goals to tie a school record and help lift Notre Dame to the national championship game Jan. 7 in Miami. Among the kicks was a career-best 52-yarder that closed out the first half and gave the Irish the momentum they needed to close out the Trojans, remain unbeaten and set up a date with destiny.
“It’s just a blessing to help my team out,” Brindza said. “(My teammates) got me in range all night. On the 52-yarder, I thought I crushed it a little bit on the sand side. It’s almost like you’re hitting almost solid (sand), kind of like the golf course on a rainy day.”
It was after pushing an attempt wide left early in the third quarter that Brindza reset himself and went on to nail two more field goals to put the game out of USC’s reach. It’s his ability to move on from misses that has allowed Brindza to post a record season for the Irish. His 23 field goals (in 31 attempts) are a single-season school record, topping the 21 John Carney made during the 1986 season.
“It’s just correcting your mistakes,” Brindza said. “Taking your mistakes and using them wisely. You have to understand what you did wrong and what you do next. Don’t put yourself down, bring yourself up by having the confidence that you know what you did wrong and now you know what you need to do right.”