Notre Dame Football: Matt Rhule

Notre Dame Week 1: Did you know?

August, 30, 2013
Here are some fun facts about the Saturday tilt. As always, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and both schools' sports information departments for these nuggets.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State are the only two teams that finished in the top 11 of last season’s AP poll that are not returning their leading passer. If it were not for the suspension of Everett Golson, each of the top six teams would be returning its leading passer. The last time that happened was entering the 1982 season. That 1982 group became the famed 1983 NFL draft class that boasted six quarterbacks chosen in the first round — including Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
  • Notre Dame surrendered 36 plays of 20-plus yards last season, tied for the second-fewest in FBS. The Irish allowed a season-high seven such plays in their loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.
  • Entering the title game, Notre Dame had allowed a touchdown on 24 percent of its opponents’ red-zone drives, the lowest percentage for any FBS team. But Alabama scored a touchdown on all five of its red-zone drives.
  • Golson and Tommy Rees had virtually identical Adjusted Total QBR numbers (Golson – 68.0, Rees – 67.0) in 2012, but Golson was much more of a running threat than Rees. Golson also had a QBR of 67.5 as a rusher last season, while Rees has a QBR of 4.7 as a rusher in his career.
  • George Atkinson III led the Irish last year in yards per rush (7.1), which ranked 12th among running backs with at least 50 carries last season.
  • Brian Kelly has 199 career wins as a head coach (including 13 seasons at Grand Valley State). A win would make him the 14th active coach with at least 200 wins across all divisions.
  • Since joining its first major conference in 1991 (Big East), Temple has defeated one nationally ranked team: October 17, 1998 at No. 14 Virginia Tech.
  • Notre Dame has four players on its roster from Pennsylvania: Ben Koyack, John Chereson, Will Fuller and Mike McGlinchey, who was a prep teammate of Temple walk-on running back Eric Neefe at Penn Charter. Temple has no players from Indiana.
  • The schools have never played, though two more games are on deck for 2015 (Philadelphia) and 2017 (South Bend).
  • New Temple coach Matt Rhule rewards the toughest players on his team with single-digit jersey numbers: No. 1Sean Daniels, No. 2 Anthony Robey, No. 3Juice Granger, No. 4Ryan Alderman, No. 5Jalen Fitzpatrick, No. 6Blaze Caponegro, No. 7John Christopher, No. 8 LBTyler Matakevich and No. 9 Levi Brown. (Offensive linemen cannot wear single-digit jersey numbers.)
  • The Owls' captains, as elected by teammates, are Alderman, a senior receiver, Brown, a senior defensive lineman, sophomore offensive linemanKyle Friend and sophomore linebackerTyler Matakevich.
  • Temple enters the 2013 season with a new school president (Neil Theobald), new acting athletic director (Kevin Clark) and new head coach (Matt Rhule).

Irish lunchtime links

August, 29, 2013
College football is back.
Notre Dame's long offseason comes to an end Saturday, as the Irish play host to Temple at 3:30 p.m. ET. What can they expect against the Owls?

When Temple has the ball: Under former coach Steve Addazio, the Owls were a ground-and-pound team. Now they are without their top two backs from last season in Montel Harris and Matt Brown. They have a new coach in Matt Rhule, who has implemented a pro spread offense, which allowed quarterback Connor Reilly to ascend from the fourth team to starter since the start of this past spring. Leading receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick (30 catches, 363 yards, 2 TDs) is back. But Cody Booth, who led the Owls last season with four touchdown catches, has moved from tight end to left tackle. Former signal-caller Chris Coyer added 30 pounds this offseason as he moved to H-back. Notre Dame will likely look to pressure Reilly in his first career start and force him into some early mistakes, especially now that the Irish have a secondary that is better equipped to seize opportunities than it was last season.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Tommy Rees is Notre Dame's quarterback, again. So what changes? For one, Rees is two years older than he was the last time he started extensively for the Irish. He's a bit bigger, too. He has two proven receivers in captain TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels, and some unproven talent behind them. Notre Dame's pistol package in camp has caused some buzz in South Bend, and it figures to help a crowded but mostly green backfield. Those tailbacks, by the way, should try to avoid linebacker Tyler Matakevich at all costs, as he is the reigning Big East rookie of the year and already one of the leaders of the defense as a sophomore captain.

Intangible: This is 38-year-old Rhule's first game as a head coach. The former New York Giants assistant returned to the Owls after serving as an assistant under Al Golden. You never know how a new coach and his players will come out early, especially when entering a place with as much history as Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish, meanwhile, should know better than to look ahead to Michigan, as they had their 2011 opener ruined by what turned out to be a 3-9 Big East team (South Florida).

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Temple 6. The Owls may be the worst team the Irish face this season. Some early first-game hiccups will keep it from eventually getting too far out of hand.

Players to watch: Temple

July, 8, 2013
Today we kick off a new series looking at some of the top players Notre Dame will be facing this coming fall. There are some familiar faces on the Irish's schedule (hello again, Blake Bell and Marqise Lee), but other key rivals are off to greener pastures (goodbye, Denard Robinson and Le'Veon Bell).

Then there are entirely new opponents, like Arizona State. Or today's entry, Temple.

We'll start things off with the Owls, who come to South Bend, Ind., on Aug. 31 for the inaugural game of the Matt Rhule era. Who should the Irish keep an extra eye on?

Offense: Connor Reilly, QB. A new offense under a new coach has given Reilly quite the opportunity this offseason. And to say he has taken advantage would be a massive understatement. Reilly ascended from fourth to first on the Owls' QB depth chart this past spring, as the pro-style passer and dual-sport athlete (he's also played for Temple's baseball team) threw for 366 yards and four scores in the spring game. Two of his competitors for the job have switched positions (Kevin Newsome to H-back; Chris Coyer, last year's starter, to tight end/H-back). Not surprisingly, Reilly was named the team's most improved offensive player this spring.

Defense: Tyler Matakevich, LB. The reigning Big East rookie of the year became the first freshman in school history last year to notch 100 tackles, finishing with a team-best 101. No teammate came within 25 tackles of the newcomer. Matakevich had three tackles for loss, three pass break-ups, a pair of fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. He didn't start until the fourth game of the season, and it's important to remember that the Owls played only 11 contests last year. Matakevich had seven double-digit tackle outings. He was a second-team all-conference pick, a freshman All-American and the ECAC defensive rookie of the year.
In some ways, social media is often a popularity contest. And few fare better in popularity contests than Notre Dame, which attracts attention like no other on an annual basis, win or lose.

The latest example comes from the Tulsa World's Kelly Hines, who compiled a list of college football coaches by Twitter followers.

No. 2 on the list? Brian Kelly.

The fourth-year Irish coach has 91,042 Twitter followers as of the writing, trailing only LSU's Les Miles, who has 105,760.

Anyone who has seen Miles live-tweet a sporting event in the past should not be all that surprised, given the Tigers coach's seemingly unfiltered thoughts on everything.

Kelly's successor at Cincinnati, new Tennessee coach Butch Jones, checks in at No. 3 on the list, at 75,300 followers.

Other coaches of interest to Notre Dame fans are USC's Lane Kiffin (18th, 29,790), Kansas' Charlie Weis (28th, 17,460), MSU's Mark Dantonio (39th, 9,425), BYU's Bronco Mendenhall (53rd, 4,560), Nevada's Brian Polian (60th, 3,046), Temple's Matt Rhule (66th, 2,289), UMass' Charley Molnar (76th, 1,548) and Navy's Ken Niumatalolo (84th, 837).


The latest from Gustin at The Opening
ESPN 300 athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) took time out to talk recruiting and more with WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz on Tuesday at The Opening.


Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30