Notre Dame topples Temple in season opener
Meagan Bens | Sunday, September 3, 2017
Thirty-three seconds into their opening game, the Irish had already displayed their new and improved offense led by junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush — ultimately resulting in Notre Dame’s 49-16 win over Temple.
After Wimbush set up the touchdown run with a 33-yard pass to junior wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on the first play, junior running back Josh Adams scored on a 37-yard run, just 33 seconds into the game. Adams’s score marked the fastest touchdown to open a season for the Irish since linebacker Pete Bercich returned an interception 21 yards on the opening play against Northwestern in 1993.
Notre Dame’s opening drive and 7-0 lead instilled confidence in Wimbush. With just under six minutes left in the first quarter, Wimbush slid into the end zone an eight-yard run, yielding a 14-0 lead. Despite Temple’s 36-yard field goal a couple minutes later, Notre Dame and Wimbush kept the momentum with a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Nic Weishar. Irish head coach Brian Kelly felt Wimbush’s first start was a successful one and that he was impressed with the junior quarterback’s resilience.
“I thought that for a guy starting for the first time, he provided some excitement and energy to the offense,” Kelly said. “I think everybody that watched him can see the tools that he has; the ability to run, throw the football. He’s tough. He got hit today. He got back up. Again, I think when you assess the quarterback position at the end of the day, they are going to assess him on wins and losses and today was a good day for the quarterback at Notre Dame because we are 1-0. There are things we have to clean up, the interception certainly. He has to key the corner, the corner lagged, but he comes off telling me ‘Oh I have to keep my eyes on the corner,’ and that ends the conversation pretty quickly with me. He is very coachable. We will get better.”
Before the end of the first half, Wimbush lofted a five-yard pass to St. Brown for a touchdown, and Owls junior quarterback Logan Marchi threw a 12-yard pass to senior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood for their first touchdown. Notre Dame went into the locker room with a 21-3 lead, displaying its versatile offense, which owed its success to the offensive line and the team’s depth, according to Wimbush.
“The offensive line is pretty special and I don’t know how many offensive lines have been like this one at this University,” Wimbush said. “There have been some great ones and great guys. But this unit is really special, they have worked their tails off. And then you have three of the best [running] backs in the country to me. If Josh [Adams] goes down and he is hurting, you bring [junior] Dexter [Williams], you bring in [sophomore] Tony [Jones, Jr.] and he will have the same production, there’s no falling back. All those guys have been great up front.”
Notre Dame’s offense was dormant after its 28-10 lead going into the half until Jones scored on a seven-yard run with 1:22 left in the third quarter. Temple had an opportunity to put another seven points on the board, but wide open, sophomore tight end Kenny Yeboah failed to grip Marchi’s pass into the end zone. With 6:47 left in the third quarter, Owls kicker Austin Jones missed a 36-yard field goal, wrapping up any of their chances to add to the score for the remaining of the quarter.
During the fourth quarter, Temple was able to put its second and final touchdown on the board with a 11-yard pass to senior wide receiver Brodrick Yancy, but they failed to complete the two-point conversion. Putting the game out of reach, senior linebacker Drue Tranquill recovered a fourth-down fumble with less than 10 minutes remaining.
A combination of Wimbush running the ball himself, a penalty on the Owls and finally having Adams rush for a yard into the end zone resulted in a 42-16 lead. The Irish would not let up their running game with 3:22 left as Williams rushed a total of 69 yards in three plays, sealing Notre Dame’s 49-16 victory.
Overall, the successful distribution among the tight ends and wide receivers throughout the game, Wimbush, Adams and Williams rushing over 100 yards, and the perfect 6-for-6 touchdown spoke to the 2017 team’s talent. Tranquill felt the run game was a particular highlight of the opener.
“I’m proud with the run game,” Tranquill said. “It’s something we haven’t had in the last five years. We take a lot of pride in it, we worked hard at it and Coach Long has given us the opportunity to do so. If we can do that week to week, I think our offense has a good chance to be the best in the country and we aren’t going to stop until we achieve that. We have a great offensive coordinator who trusts us up front and allows the game to go thorough us which is how we want it.”
Kelly said the team has the perseverance to clean up its game and only move upward.
“The players in that locker room have an immense amount of pride when it comes to the tradition of Notre Dame football and I think you saw that today,” Kelly said. “The way they competed, in particular they exhibited the traits that allow them to win a football game against the team we played today. That’s the most important, immense amount of pride in Notre Dame football. That was in display today, in particular in the second half when we needed to come up with a stop and really change the flow of game. We will break down film and clean up mistakes, but when they exhibit perseverance and grit needed to have a successful season, that’s a good day for me.”