NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Two days before what might be the biggest moment in the football career of Kyle Brindza, there was no expectation he'd even be on stage.
Brindza has been handling kickoff duties during his one-plus seasons at Notre Dame. Injury thrust him into starting placekicker duties Saturday against Purdue and he came up aces, delivering the game-winning effort with seven seconds remaining.
Nick Tausch remained on the sidelines with a groin issue.
"We had another injury at the kicking position," said head coach Brian Kelly. "Kyle was not our starter this week. Forty-eight hours ago we had an injury to Tausch. Kyle had to step in. That's why I'm so proud of my guys. Next man in and they went in and got the job done."
Kelly declined to make Brindza available for comment after the game.
That the sophomore kicker would be showered in glory after the 20-17 victory over Purdue would have been a dubious assumption after the first quarter.
Midway through the first quarter Notre Dame drove to the Purdue 23-yard line, where Brindza trotted out to attempt a 40-yard field goal. It missed wide left, hooking from the start without much chance of success.
Notre Dame built a 17-7 lead before Purdue tied the game late in the fourth quarter thanks to an Everett Golson fumble. Tommy Rees took over at quarterback and guided the Irish to the Purdue 10-yard line, taking a knee then spiking the ball to line Brindza up in the middle of the field.
Brindza converted the 27-yard attempt to secure the first game-winning field goal of his career. It was the latest game-winning field goal in regulation for Notre Dame since D.J. Fitzpatrick hit one as time expired against Navy nine years ago.
"It shows a lot of maturity on his part to miss a field goal and then come back and kick possibly the most important field goal of his career so far," said linebacker Manti Te'o. "It shows his maturity and it shows his confidence. He's going to continue to get better, especially with his performance today and kicking that game-winning field goal. He's just going to get that much better and build upon his performance today."