Head to head: Notre Dame vs. Temple
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, October 30, 2015
Although he challenged the all-time Temple passing marks his freshman season, junior P.J. Walker hasn’t been as electric the last two seasons.
With Walker at the helm, Temple is only averagaing 197 passing yards per game, good for 92nd in the country. Although a dual-threat quarterback who amassed over 300 yards rushing each of his first two seasons, Walker has struggled on the ground this season and doesn’t rank among his team’s top six rushers.
Walker’s top target is redshirt senior Robby Anderson, who ranks first on the team with 388 yards and five touchdowns on the season, including an eight-catch, 126 yard performance last week.
The Irish will counter the Owls’ aerial attack with a veteran secondary that has been coming on as of late. After both recording their first interceptions of the season last week, senior KeiVarae Russell and junior Max Redfield will lead an Irish secondary that should blanket an average crop of Temple receivers.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Temple is led on the ground by junior Jahad Thomas, who has racked up 822 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season so far.
Thomas, who transitioned from defensive back much like Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise, has scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game this season.
Despite his successes, Thomas will be going up against a stout Notre Dame front seven that has been shown flashes of brilliance against the run. The Irish are led by senior defensive tackle Sheldon Day, who leads the team with eight tackles for loss so far in 2015.
Still, Notre Dame is allowing 4.8 yards per carry on the ground. Thomas might not run all over the Irish front and instead will be in for a battle in the trenches.
OWLS OFFENSIVE COACHING
The Temple offense has not been flashy so far in the 2015 season, although it has gotten the job done. Instead, the Owls have relied on their defense.
That might not be enough to get the job done against the Irish. Temple touts the 108th ranked offense in the country, which could be problematic going against an ultra-athletic Notre Dame team.
Look for Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to stack the box, forcing the Owls to beat Notre Dame through the air. If the Irish defense doesn’t take any drives off like it is prone to do, its talent and coaching should be enough on this side of the ball.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
OWLS SPECIAL TEAMS
Although sophomore kicker Austin Jones and sophomore punter Alex Starzyk both started out as walk-ons, they have still been more than solid for the Owls.
Jones is 9-for-12 on the season with a long of 40 yards, having only attempted one kick longer than that.
Starzyk has averaged a respectable 42.5 yards per punt, including a long of 60 yards.
Temple’s true advantage on special teams might be in the return game, however. Jahad Thomas is averaging 33.2 yards per kick return, having taken one back for a touchdown, while Sean Chandler is averaging 16.6 yards returning punts.
Still, the Irish have looked solid against returns this year; although Jones is accurate, the fact that he doesn’t have the strongest leg makes this one a draw.
After solid but unspectacular football for the his first few starts, sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer looked extremely comfortable against a talented USC team.
Kizer has quietly racked up an impressive array of statistics, ranking 14th in the country in passer rating while tossing 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. The signal-caller had a much needed bye this past week, as head coach Brian Kelly said he had been “running on fumes” up until then.
Kizer will continue to rely on a talented crop of receivers, led by Philadelphia-native Will Fuller. In addition to his 702 yards and eight touchdowns, Fuller ranks sixth in the country averaging 21.94 yards per catch.
The Irish passing attack will go up against a so-so Temple secondary that ranks 57th in pass yards allowed per game.
As long as he has enough time, Kizer should be comfortable enough now to pick apart the Owls.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
With the exception of the first half against Clemson, Notre Dame’s running game has been plugging along all season, already matching last season’s 20-plus yard run total with 18. Senior C.J. Prosise has been electric, averaging a would-be Notre Dame record of 132 rush yards per game.
Having said all that, Prosise will be going up against a veteran Temple defensive front. The trio of senior Matt Ioannidis, redshirt junior Haason Reddick and redshirt senior Nate D. Smith have combined for 21 tackles for loss for a Temple defense that is only allowing 91.1 rush yards per game, good for sixth in the country.
This is one of the most intriguing aspects of the game and is too close to call.
IRISH OFFENSIVE COACHING
Although it is still unknown who is calling the plays for the Irish, one thing is certain: The Irish offense has arguably looked better than ever.
The Irish are averaging 7.31 yards per play in 2015, a number they have improved upon every year since Kelly took over in 2010. Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in both total offense (498.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (38.3 points per game).
The Irish offense, however, is going up a talented Temple defense led by 39-year coaching veteran Phil Snow. Snow has led the UCLA and Washington defenses in the past; at Temple, he helped the Owls improve from 29.8 points per game allowed in 2013 to 17.5 last season (fourth nationally).
Teams may finally have enough film on Kizer, so it will be interesting to see what type of defense Snow brings on Saturday.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
The Irish specialists continue to surprise during the 2015 season.
Freshman kicker Justin Yoon was 2-for-2 against USC and now hasn’t missed a field goal since week two at Virginia.
Sophomore punter Tyler Newsome has impressed as well, averaging 43.5 yards per punt.
In the return game, freshman C.J. Sanders has been electric; having said that, the speedy receiver has had some trouble holding onto the football.
Against Temple, Notre Dame will need to be wary of its kicks being blocked – the Owls blocked two punts against East Carolina last week, including one late in the fourth quarter that iced the game for Temple.