The Notre Dame 2013 team came roaring out of the tunnel and in the first five minutes of the game were as breathtaking and elegant as Alex Flanagan, jumping to a 14-0 lead over the Temple Owls. The Irish offense covered 168 yards in 6 plays (yep, 27 yards per play) in the first two drives, for two, almost too easy, Davaris Daniels touchdowns. In between, the Irish defense forced a quick three and out. Then, in the next 25 minutes, the Irish were as breathtaking and elegant as Fat Shirley, not scoring and allowing the game Owls to thrice penetrate inside the Irish 30. Tommy Rees restored order with a 66 yard touchdown pass to Troy Niklas just before halftime for a 21-6 lead. The Irish then drove 94 yards, in seven coldly efficient plays, on their first possession of the second half for a George Atkinson plunge for a TD creating the 28-6 final margin.
Overpowering an undermanned, undersized, under-traditioned, and underresourced, but pesky and feisty Temple the Fighting Irish avoided both the miscues and rain delays of the last time the first game was at home, the 2011 opener against South Florida.
ORDNANCE: That was the watchword of an offense that displayed an overwhelming array of diverse weaponry, from the tuly Herculean Troy Niklas to the long striding Davaris Daniels and Chris Brown, to the elusive open field wraith Amir Carlise. His first touch was good for Amir and good for the team. The downfield blocks of Prosise and Brown were clinically pure, turning a 15 yard run into a 45 yard run.
While points were hard to come by, the Irish penetrated into Temple territory on the first 8 drives, missing, ahem, two field goals.
Offensive Coordinator and Play Caller Chuck Martin and Tommy Rees were like smart diners at a buffet, getting more as they grazed running power, speed, and short, intermediate and deep passes.
This is the paragraph where we discuss offensive fumbles and lost turnovers. There is NOTHING to say! The Irish had only three offensive penalties, the first a deja vu number before the first Irish offensive snap, then an odd false start by center Nick Martin, the third a hold in garbage time.
Certainly Daniels and Carlisle and Niklas and McDaniel shone brightly, but be not deceived by that. This Irish offense no longer needs to deposit its eggs in single baskets held by Michael Floyd or Tyler Eifert. We have five tailbacks who can play, and Bryant and Folston will get better as they get more familiar with the sytem. Will Mahone soon returns from injury. The threesome of Daniels, Jones and Brown is extraordinary, and Prosise, Robinson, Onwualu and Fuller will contribute by October. And it is only Niklas’ excellence that keeps Koyack and Welch from getting more snaps. ORDNANCE
The defense looked better in the secondary with the newfound depth, allowing only two passes longer than 15 yards.
The rush defense gave the Temple RBS only 53 yards, but yielded 79 to somewhat clever and elusive quarterbacks. File that.
Nix played sloppily and was assessed three penalties. That is unacceptable for a Senior and All-America. He will be focused by Saturday night.
But an Achilees Heel surfaced. It seems that Diaco/Elston are only comfortable with Kona Schwenke as a DL sub. One or all of Rochell, Stockton or Jarron Jones better be ready to sub in crunch time or this will be a difficult season. In 2013 you can not play consistently winning football with 4 defensive linemen. Hopefully, the kick he blocked will be the spark that ignites Jarron Jones..
Diaco expanded his defensive portfolio, mixing in much more man to man coverage, and trotting out an array of blitzes. It takes time to assimilate and excel in scheme changes, and the Irish will grow more comfortable with the man-to-man and more effective with the blitzes as the season and coaching up matures.
What can we learn from Saturday?
Next to nothing. Saturday’s victory over the Owls, which may not be the weakest team we play, has less objective predictive value than
last year’s game in Dublin against an experienced Navy team with an experienced coach that was comfortable in its schemes on both sides of the football.
Notwithstanding our scientific restraint, 1-0 is 1-0 and the statistics compiled helped salve the wounds left by the last game the irish played. 13 regular season wins in a row. Will it become 14?
NEWCOMERS OF THE MATCH
Cole Luke-what are you thinking? That he’s more advanced, more skilled than KeiVarae Russell was a year ago? Perhaps. If true, think of what that says about both the depth and rising talent level of the Irish roster.
Jaylon Smith- well, he started at a tough position in his first collegiate game. He did no harm, and certainly has the quickness to cover pass receivers. Many coaches, including Kelly, keep saying that Jaylon never makes the same mistake twice. He will be fun to watch. Matt Rhule, who looks more boyish than Rees, said that Smith took Temple out of some things they wanted to do. In Game ONE!
DEPTH – the depth of this Irish team has ARRIVED. Other than DL and QB, the Irish are deeper at every other area, WR, TE, OL, RB
LB, CB, S.
Coach Danny Spond- while he’s missed on the gridiron, this is a quintessentially Notre Dame response by the student, by the program, by the coach, and by his fellow players. It is the Notre Dame difference.
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT RISERS
Tommy Rees-ah, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Is it true that crow tastes like chicken?
Chris Brown-still shaky, and not at Davaris’ level, but he will has come a long way from Chris “run the fly pattern” Brown of 2012.
Lombard and Stanley-amazing how much stronger the right side of our line is than a year ago.
Troy Niklas-He has narrowed, but not completely closed the gap between his raw athleticism and his skill level. He may be the most difficult matchup of any Notre Dame player. He plays the game with what Bob Timberlake called “good, clean violence.”
Davaris Daniels-from a unripe redshirt frosh to a shaky inconsistent start in 2012 to a big role against Alabama to star status. Phil Daniels’ kid is going to be fun to watch!
OPPONENTS’ NOTES (ASU, Navy, Pitt and Stanford have not yet played)
Michigan- dominating win against CMU, and more on the Wolverines below
Purdue- first effort of the Darrell Hazell era was underwhelming. Could not run, could not stop the run.
Michigan State-same Spartans-solid defense, physical but merely competent on offense
Oklahoma-broke in the new quarterback, but the jury yet sequestered on whether they can play physical football when it counts. Can Travis Knight throw well enough to utilize their outstanding receivers?
USC-like a virus, the decay and flesh eating continues. A desultory performance againt Hawaii. Discipline? 9 penalties and two turnovers. And they mustered two offensive touchdowns against the Hawaii defense that surrendered 69 points to Nevada-Reno, 52 to SDSU. The fascinating question is whether Kiffin will quit on the team before it quits on him.
Air Force-Academy football, not great, just steady and dangerous. Flossed Colgate’s defense for over 400 yards rushing.
BYU- Taysom Hill is the Cougars’ Moses? Hmm? Taysom Hill was 13-40 for 175 yards against the mighty Cavalier secondary. Third best team in Utah?
WHAT WILL WE SEE IN ANN ARBOR?
(1) A coach who has completed his first two years unbeaten at home. Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, Bo Schembechler, Lou Saban at Bama, Pete Carroll at USC did not do that. Brady Hoke did. He has also done one thing no ND coach has done: win a BCS game.
(2) A wider smile from Al Borges, who got lucky last year when Denard got hurt, for he had the rest of the regular season and the Bowl game to prepare Devin Gardner for 2013. Gardner threw three touchdown passes against South Carolina. 9 months of Borges instruction have passed since then.
(3) Greg Mattison, served as defensive coordinator at Michigan before, then at Notre Dame, then at Florida, where his defense earned a national championship ring, then with the Ravens before joining Hoke at Michigan. By a margin, the best defensive coordinator Notre Dame will face all year. His defense drove Everett Golson out of the game last September. If Reese can be bothered, Mattison will find the way
(4) A mobile quarterback, Gardner ran for 24 yards against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, for 52 yards in 7 carries against the Chippewas of CMU.
(6) Something mind-boggling and unexpected. We always do in Washtenaw County
(7) A clear picture of the Irish team of 2013, round Midnight. We will have a better idea of who we are.
This is a huge game for measuring the Irish program. We are clearly “good” after last year. But to be at the top of the non-SEC portion of the BCS we will have to come away from Ann Arbor with a victory. It is imperative. Saturday night is the unforgiving moment, but can be a rite of passage
Buckle your chin straps, lads, and GO IRISH!