SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It wasn't the most important play of Notre Dame's 30-13 win over Oklahoma, but the result may have been different had Kyle Brindza missed a 44-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
Brindza had been solid to begin his sophomore season, his first kicking field goals with Notre Dame. He hit 10 of his first 12 tries, after he was thrown into the fray following Nick Tausch's injury in Week 2 against Purdue (a game in which Brindza went on to hit the game-winning field goal).
But Brindza began to struggle a bit in Notre Dame's 17-14 win over BYU. He missed a pair of field goals in that contest, and after hitting his first in Norman, the sophomore sent a 35-yarder wide left to leave the Irish without any points on a promising drive to open the second half.
But facing a crucial attempt with just under 14 minutes to go in the fourth, Brian Kelly had the confidence to send Brindza back out to try a kick in front of 86,031 fans -- a new attendance record at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Brindza hit that kick, and then a 46-yarder that put Notre Dame up by 10 with 3:22 remaining.
"I told him on the sideline, I said Im proud of the way you hung in there," Kelly recalled on Saturday. "Some may have hung their head, but he bounced back and came back strong for us. I said to him Im proud of you, but youre shaking my confidence. Dont do it anymore. And he promised that he wont."
Brindza was able to diagnose the issue with his missed kick in Norman -- he said he didn't keep his head down. It's kind of like a bad swing in golf -- pull your head up, and the ball probably isn't going to go where you want it.
"You gotta make sure youre doing everything correct, the mechanics, the leg motion and truly just keeping my head down and following straight at the target, and letting the crowd tell me its good or not," Brindza explained.
But Brindza credited Kelly's approach with him on the sidelines as something that helped keep his confidence up. Kelly, of course, has a reputation for purple-faced tirades, although that hardly was the case in his dealings with Brindza.
"Its a lot better than a coach coming up and yelling at you," Brindza said of his interaction with Kelly after his missed kick. "If coach came up and yelled at you right away, was very heated at you, youd kind of sit back and be like wow, and youd actually think more about the miss, rather than what do I need to do. So having a coach thats able to come up to you and have faith and be able to give confidence to yourself as well as joking around a little bit, which he did, its a lot better."
While Brindza's still getting his kicking form down, one thing he and Notre Dame don't have to worry about his confidence. Brindza described himself as confident over and over on Wednesday, and added that he's felt like a seasoned veteran since his first kick with the Irish.
"Its just like a quarterback throwing an interception. If your confidence level is low, youre going to go out there and possibly throw another one," Brindza said. "If you keep your confidence and keep building on it, and just have the mindset of alright, what did I do wrong, I need to correct it, go out there the next time and make the kick."