- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Kyle Brindza has kicked a game-winner this year, and he has kicked a game-saver in the pouring rain. He has connected from as deep as 52 yards, and he has made a Notre Dame-record 23 tries this season, despite not even entering 2012 as the starter.
All of that will go out the window when the nation's two best scoring defenses clash Jan. 7 in South Florida, and the spotlight is something the sophomore could not be more excited about.
"I invite pressure. I love pressure," Brindza said. "That's one of the weirdest things for a kicker. My kicking coach always asked me: 'Why do you like pressure?' I just like it. You're out there, everything's on you — what are you going to do? You're going to make it or you miss it.
"People are going to put odds against you. I love when people put odds against me, and I've faced them all my life. I'm just one of those kids that invites pressure."
The last of five surgeries to repair club foot -- a birth condition in which Brindza's feet were rotated internally, with doctors saying he'll never play, let alone kick -- came eight years ago, and Brindza's historic season has only validated his and his mother's decision to defy orders.
Taking over for an injured Nick Tausch in the home opener against Purdue, Brindza missed his first career try, a 40-yarder, before his 27-yarder late beat Purdue. A season-defining win over Stanford was made possible by his 22-yarder on the soaked Notre Dame Stadium grass that forced overtime.
He is 23 of 31 on the season, with four notable misses coming from inside 40 yards. But he has missed consecutive tries only once, in his first two attempts against BYU, and Brian Kelly has had little to worry about when it comes to Brindza's mental makeup.
"If there’s one word, he’s been pretty clutch for us," the Irish coach said. "When we needed that big kick, when the game's on the line, he’s delivered every single time. What I like about him is he doesn’t get rattled. He may miss one here or there, but there’s generally not a pattern for him."
With Alabama and Notre Dame ranking 1-2 in red-zone defense, opportunities figure to strike for Brindza on the nation's biggest stage. His earlier obstacles, on and off the field, have only hardened him for the moment.
"You can't get rid of a miss right away. You have to understand what you did wrong and then get rid of it," Brindza said. "Just like in golf. You miss a putt — what'd you do wrong? Don't do that next time, punch it away. So it's pretty much understanding what you did wrong and being able to go out there the next time and do the correct fundamentals rather than what did you do wrong."