5 Things I Liked: Temple ’13

Tommy Rees - Temple
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees (11) throws a pass against the Temple Owls at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty to be concerned about coming out of Notre Dame’s relatively easy 28-6 win to start the season yesterday, but at the same time, there was a lot to like and a lot to be excited about as well.

Just as we did last year, we will be doing posts on the 5 things we liked and 5 things we didn’t like for each game on the schedule. We’ll kick things off this week focusing primarily on the offensive side of the ball for the things we liked.

1. The debut of Amir Carlisle

All summer long I’ve been talking about how excited I was to see what Amir Carlisle would add to the Notre Dame offense.  It didn’t take him long to show us either.  After a procedure penalty before Notre Dame even snapped the ball for the first time in 2013, Carlisle took a handoff from Tommy Rees out of the pistol formation and raced 45 yards downfield displaying excellent top end speed.

Carlisle is a dynamic runner and it seems clear that Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin are going to try to find ways to get him the ball.  Carlisle was targeted a couple times on bubble screens but Temple did a good job sniffing them out on both occasions.  He ended the game with 68 yards on 7 rushes to lead the Irish in yardage and caught two passes for 5 yards.

Look for Carlisle’s role to continue to grow each week.

2. The play of all of Notre Dame’s wide receivers

All summer long we’ve talked about the depth Notre Dame has at wide receiver this year and that depth was on full display Saturday.  DaVaris Daniels wasted no time finding the endzone after not scoring at all in 2012.  Daniels pulled in two 32 yard passes from Rees for touchdowns in the first quarter before having to leave the game with a minor groin injury.

Despite not scoring a touchdown, TJ Jones was the star of the group with 6 catches for 138 yards including a 51 yarder where he displayed a burst we haven’t seen from him before.  It looks like Jones found another gear this off-season and that he is going to be the focal point of the Notre Dame aerial attack this season.

Chris Brown got into the action as well with a big third down conversion and 3 catches overall for 57 yards.  Brown caught just two passes for 56 yards as a true freshman last year meaning he has surpassed both totals already.   Notre Dame has a lot of options in the passing game this year and they were all on display yesterday for everyone, including Michigan to see.

3. Tommy Rees’s downfield passing, ball security

While all of the depth at wide receiver was great to see, it was even better seeing Tommy Rees get the ball downfield accurately and timely.  His throws to Daniels were both right on the money and looked good coming out his arm – no wounded ducks and air balls lobbed downfield.

No one is going to mistake Rees’s arm with Brett Favre’s, but the senior quarterback was highly efficient on Saturday with a career high 335 yards to go along with three touchdowns and most importantly, NO turnovers.  Turnovers have haunted Rees in the past but he did not turn the ball over once on Saturday.  Rees only had three starts in all of 2011  where he didn’t turn the ball over once.

If Rees can continue to get the ball downfield and protect it like he did Saturday, the Notre Dame offense will be in more than solid shape this season.

4. Troy Niklas’s blocking, touchdown grab

Troy Niklas’s 66 yards touchdown at the end of the first half was a lot of fun to watch and was very reminiscent of John Carlson’s long touchdown against Michigan State in 2006 and Kyle Rudolph’s 95 yarder against Michigan in 2010.  Niklas got behind the defense and saw two Temple defenders bounce off of him like flies on a windshield.  It was his only catch of the day, but when your only catch goes for 66 yards and a touchdown, you are making your presence felt.

More impressive than seeing a 270 lb tight end race down the field for 66 yards, however, was the blocking Niklas displayed on the perimeter of the Notre Dame offense.  Niklas got out in space and manhandled some Temple defenders on the short passes that Notre Dame receivers were able to turn into long gains. In the past NIklas has been great blocking right at the point of attack, but hadn’t shown such a strong ability to block in space before.

5. Notre Dame’s stable of running backs

If anyone is still overly concerned about losing running back commitment Elijah Hood, watch Saturday’s game over again and you will feel better because Notre Dame has a stable of running backs all capable of being starters for big time programs on the college level.  We’ve already discussed Carlisle but outside of him Cam McDaniel looked great and so did the rookie tandem of Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.

The only negative with the running backs was that starter George Atkinson still isn’t running with a low pad level and took at least one big shot from a Temple defender because of it.  Overall, Atkinson was probably the least impressive of the backs too despite being the only one to reach the endzone.  Atkinson wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t as impressive as some of the other Notre Dame backs.

Something tells me that Notre Dame threw the ball a lot to get Michigan’s attention and that we are going to see more of an effort to run the ball next week.  Kelly and Martin got five different running backs involved this week and it wouldn’t surprise me if ether Bryant or Folston emerged next week ala Daris Walker against Michigan in 2004.



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  1. alabama ran on us, we stacked the line, they picked us part on the perimeter, does anyone play a 4 4 3 defense anymore, and do we have the speedy linebackers to do it,

  2. It must just be me, but I didnt get the feeling the defense was all
    that fired up saturday. If we dont pressure the Michigan QB we are in
    trouble. Great depth at running back and receiver if Daniels is alright.
    Kelly signing for 5 years will help recruiting even more.

  3. I think after they went up 14-0 they mailed it in. They were brining three all day so Big Lou and Tuitt were doubled all day. The few times they brought the heat they were swarming the back field. This game was about as vanilla as it gets and there shouldn’t be too many worries about next week. I suspect a lot of running to open up Brown and Daniels down the field.

  4. Oh…forgot to compliment Tommy and the receivers. They looked really good.

    Our warriors in the trenches were solid. This team is powerful.

    We are going to shock Wolverines in their playpen.


  5. I liked the comment about Darius Walker….that guy was really solid. I liked Lee Becton a lot, too!

    I think the Irish are loaded at RB. The frosh are beasts. Cam is great and George can take it to the house at any time.

    Really happy to see Amir out there. I was impressed and enjoyed the game.

    Niklas’ TD was awesome. Go Servite Friar!!!

    Congrats to BK. He is a very good coach.

    Go Irish,

    PS Defense saving blitzes for Mich. Next week Diaco will unleash the Krakens!!!

    1. Oh Woody, like your comment about Lee Becton. I always liked him too. Just watched replays from 1993 so that was funny you said that. I love our RB’s. I haven’t been this pumped about true fast talent and depth at that position since Holtz was around.

      May they fly like the wind


  6. Michael the Archangel,

    No worries, BK said we did not disclose our plan for Michigan. Besides, CMU??? No wonder Michigan scored 59 points. CMU is a borderline High School Football Team. Go to Temple’s conference (American Athletic) Louisville, Rutgers and Conneticut etc. Much, Much higher quality conference. Relax, we definitely have a great reason to beat Michigan. Mr. Hokey-Dokey UM Head Coach called us “chicken!” remember? Get ready for ND to make Chicken Soup Out of Michigan! Brady Hoke has supplied the motivation with his Big-Mouth! Lastly, there was no reason to disclose all of our new blitz packages designed for Michigan’s young freshman QB.


  7. Credit to the “D” for keeping big plays to a minimum (only 1 play beyond 20 yards, I believe).

    Temple ‘s pass “D” was woeful last year, but Tommy did do very well, missing but a few open men, especially showing he can hit the open man downfield. Better, faster “D” players such as Michigan and MSU in the coming three weeks will be more telling, however.

    The LB, nickel, dime coverage play against the short pass was ineffective, as a first-time starter ripped them apart. More pressure on him, something we finally saw after the first drive of the second half, did help.

    Michigan just scored 59 points! Give their QB the time we gave Reilly Saturday, and the offense better be prepared for a shootout. And a shootout doesn’t seem to be what best suits a Tommy Rees offense.
    Forgive my frustration- but I saw what a blitzing “D” did for a Bears team back in ’85.
    I’m hoping with the experience we have in the secondary, blitzing will occur more regularly this season, to force poor and or rushed passes to be thrown. In modern football, few teams can afford opponents to have the time to play catch with receivers they’ve been practicing with for six months or longer.

  8. Marked Home Opener improvement by TR:
    South Florida Opener 2011 Rees stats: 24/34 296 2 2
    Temple Opener 2013 Rees stats: 16/23 346 3 ZERO!

    TR deserves credit for a near flawless game! TR needs a repeat performance or better to dispell the BIG GAME naysayers. Only facts count!


  9. Great perspective on the pro’s…now how about exploring a few con’s. Things like Louis Nix’s 2 procedural penalties, punting game still can’t get the “pooch” to work and why after the 2 opening drives for scores where the run game opened things up for the TD passes did they go heavy on the passing game for starters. Love the new site! Keep it goin’!

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