Week 1: Temple
Samantha Zuba | Monday, September 2, 2013
No. 14 Notre Dame set a blistering tempo with its opening drive and drove the pace of the game all the way to a 28-6 victory over Temple in the season opener on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish (1-0) finished their opening touchdown drive in a breezy 1:26 and followed with a second brisk scoring sequence, completed in 1:01.
Irish coach Brian Kelly praised senior quarterback Tommy Rees’ execution of the efficient drives.
“Obviously a lot of the questions coming in is ‘Could we push the ball down the field?'” Kelly said. “I think we answered a lot of those questions right away with [Rees’] ability to push the ball down the field. I thought his patience was better, and it will continue to get better. So I was pleased with his performance, and he knows he can play better.”
Rees acknowledged he has work to do, despite his success against the Owls (0-1). Before exiting in the fourth quarter for fellow senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix, Rees was 16-for-23 with 346 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was Rees’ third career game with at least 300 passing yards, but 346 set a new career-high.
“We had an opportunity to make some big plays which we did and we’re happy with the performance,” Rees said. “There is still a lot of work to go, and we know that and we’re ready to move forward.”
Several Notre Dame players set personal records or achieved career firsts.
On the first play from scrimmage and with his first carry for Notre Dame, junior running back Amir Carlisle scampered 45 yards down the left sideline into Temple territory. Two plays later, junior receiver DaVaris Daniels hauled in his first career touchdown reception on a 32-yard strike from Rees less than 90 seconds into the game.
Daniels quickly followed his first career touchdown with his second. Rees found Daniels a second time, again for 32 yards. Daniels ran a post-corner route and snagged the pass despite coverage from Temple junior cornerback Anthony Robey. The scores put Notre Dame up 14-0 just 4:41 into the first quarter.
Rees said the touchdown was a result of good communication and a good read.
“[Daniels] did a great job of understanding where the corner was playing him,” Rees said. “He cut on a high angle. I knew I saw that pre snap that we had a pretty good shot out there with the leverage the corner was playing. And DaVaris is a great route-runner.”
A 51-yard catch-and-run by senior receiver TJ Jones on the first play of the drive set up the scoring opportunity. The reception was the second longest in Jones’ career.
By the end of the game, Jones had hit another milestone. The Roswell, Ga., native logged his first 100-yard receiving game and set a career-high with 138 receiving yards.
Kelly attributed Jones’ banner day to his ability to make something happen after the catch.
“I thought it was dynamic,” Kelly said. “Dynamic is a word that I would use as a receiver when we’re talking about after the catch. So he caught the football, and then he was dynamic after the catch. And that’s what we were looking for from him.”
Jones said he didn’t know exactly how close he was to topping his personal best until the statistic appeared on the scoreboard.
“I actually thought I was still under until they showed it on … the scoreboard thing,” Jones said. “They showed I had 138. I didn’t know how far I was under. I didn’t know how far any of my plays were. I just knew they were long.”
Temple threatened for the first time at the end of the first quarter. The Owls took over at their 20-yard line with 4:06 remaining in the period after a Notre Dame punt.
Junior quarterback Connor Reilly drove Temple to the Notre Dame 30-yard line before firing a pass that skipped just beyond the outstretched hands of diving sophomore tight end Romond Deloatch. Two plays later freshman kicker Jim Cooper missed a 32-yard field goal try to end the threat and the quarter.
The Owls set up another scoring opportunity on their first possession of the second quarter, but Cooper’s 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
Temple punched across its only score when junior halfback Kenny Harper plunged through a small lane for a 1-yard score with 1:01 left in the first half. Irish sophomore defensive lineman Jarron Jones blocked the extra point attempt, however, to keep the score at 14-6.
Notre Dame’s defense kept the Owls’ offense off-balance by forcing hurried throws from Reilly. Junior defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and senior outside linebacker Prince Shembo supplied much of the pressure on Reilly with several hurries. In the secondary, meanwhile, senior safety Austin Collinsworth and junior safety Matthias Farley prevented big plays downfield.
“What I like was the safety communication was outstanding. I thought Collinsworth did a very nice job of working with Matthias Farley,” Kelly said. “I think that there’s a seamless, natural transition on that defensive side of the ball.”
Other than a first-quarter sack by sophomore nose tackle Matt Ioannidis, Rees enjoyed reliable protection.
The senior quarterback took advantage on a 66-yard touchdown pass up the seam to junior tight end Troy Niklas. The single-play drive took 18 seconds and provided the Irish with a 21-6 halftime lead. The reception more than doubled Niklas’ previous career long of 30 yards, set against Purdue in 2012, and was Niklas’ second career touchdown.
“[Niklas] was wide open down the middle of the field, and Tommy did a good job of reading the coverage,” Kelly said. “They were in their third and long coverage, and he outran the middle linebacker down the middle of the field.”
Temple drove deep into Notre Dame territory to start the second half, but the Irish halted the Owls on the Notre Dame six-yard line. Under pressure from Shembo on fourth down, Reilly threw an incomplete pass intended for senior tight end Chris Coyer.
The Irish followed up the defensive stop with a 94-yard touchdown drive. Junior running backs George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel shared the action and combined for 38 yards, including a 16-yard run from McDaniel.
Atkinson pushed low through traffic for a 2-yard score that settled the final result of 28-6.
The win marked Kelly’s 200th as a head coach.
“I haven’t really taken the time to think about it, other than a lot of the coaches that are with me today have been part of a lot of those wins,” Kelly said. “And that’s really, for me, pretty special.”
The Irish travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday to square off with the No. 17 Wolverines. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
Contact Samantha Zuba at [email protected]