NOTRE DAME, IN – The 2013 Notre Dame football team opened their season Saturday against the Temple Owls, on a hot & humid day in Northern Indiana. The offense started the day by taking on the identity of the weather, scoring on their first two drives of the game on their way to a 28-6 win. It was the 200th win of head coach Brian Kelly’s college career.
Amir Carlisle opened the game with a 45-yard rush off the left side on his first play in a Notre Dame uniform. Two plays later, Tommy Rees connected with DaVaris Daniels on a 32-yard touchdown pass – the first of Daniels’ career – to give the Irish a 7-0 lead. After a three and out by Temple and a punt that pinned the Irish on their own 13, Rees hit TJ Jones for a 50-yard swing pass to start the second drive. And just like the first series, two plays later, Rees hit Daniels for another 32-yard touchdown pass.
After jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the 14th-ranked Irish provided immediate evidence for offensive explosiveness they lacked much of last year. But then their performance came back down to earth. The Irish failed to score on their next three drives and their defense surrendered a late first-half score on a 78-yard drive by Temple. The drive was aided by a questionable third & goal pass interference penalty on Elijah Shumate. Temple’s Jim Cooper Jr. missed the extra point. It was his third missed kick of the day after having two previous field goal attempts go wide. The Irish then responded on the next series with a quick score when Rees found tight end Troy Niklas for a 66-yard touchdown strike on the drive’s only play. The score gave Notre Dame a 21-6 halftime lead.
The only scoring in the second half came on the Irish’s opening drive of the third quarter. Temple drove 14 plays on their first possession, but turned it over on downs. The Irish took over and drove seven plays, for 94 yards capped off by a George Atkinson III two-yard rush.
After taking a 28-6 lead, the Irish offense was pretty sluggish the rest of the game. Andrew Hendrix relieved Rees shortly after and played most of the fourth quarter completing one of his four attempts. Rees finished the game 16-for-23 for a career high 346 yards and three TDs. Jones also set a career high in receiving yardage.
The Irish offense out-gained Temple 543-362. Notre Dame passed for 355 and rushed for 188.
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Last year, the Notre Dame defense was second in the nation in scoring defense allowing only 12.8 points per game. In the opener against Temple, they only allowed six points, although the overall impression among some was that the defense was not as stout as expected against a Temple team who came in with a first-time head coach and a quarterback who had never taken a college snap. The Owls led the Irish in first downs 25-21.
The Notre Dame front seven looked over matched at times. But for most of the game, the Irish only rushed three, and on minimal occasions, four personnel, allowing future first-round draft picks Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt to be double or triple teamed. Brian Kelly acknowledge this during his post game press conference alluding to not showing too much in advance of their week two battle against Michigan.
Two areas of concern for the Irish arose for the Irish as they prepare for the trip to Ann Arbor: the kicking game and penalties. The Irish had two easy chances to pin Temple inside their 20, but punter Kyle Brindza kicked the ball well into the endzone. And on two field goal opportunities, Nick Tausch and Bridza both shanked their attempts. And Notre Dame was penalized nine times for 63 yards, most of them on the defense.
One former concern was the status of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. It was reported that the Irish coach was in contract negotiations as far back as last season. An unbeaten 2012 regular season campaign was followed by a tumultuous offseason that included Kelly’s flirtation with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced the extension during the Temple postgame press conference. Kelly later confirmed the extension’s duration of five years, which would keep him as head coach through the 2017 season.
Notes: Louis Nix III was called for two offsides penalties; 10 true freshman saw action in the opener (Jaylon Smith, Max Redfield, Will Fuller, James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Corey Robinson, Issac Rochell, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston & Devin Butler); Rees’ touchdown pass to Niklas was the longest completion of his career.