Notre Dame Football: Temple Owls

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame Week 1

September, 2, 2013
Here's a look back at the opening weekend that was for Notre Dame:

The good: Notre Dame ended a one-game losing streak that no one would stop talking about. The Irish's 28-6 win over Temple got them off to a sharp start in 2013, as they did not turn the ball over and had strong play from quarterback Tommy Rees and the rest of the offense.

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTommy Rees was sharp in the opening victory over Temple.
The bad: Nick Tausch missed his only field goal attempt, a 39-yard try. Kyle Brindza then missed one from 44 yards, making the Irish 0-for-2 on the day. Head coach Brian Kelly had wanted Saturday to be somewhat of an audition for his kickers, and the Irish are now left with a crucial decision to make heading into this Saturday's game at Michigan.

Biggest surprise: Kelly had harped on it throughout camp, but Rees' ball distribution was evident Saturday, as he connected with seven different receivers, including four who hauled in multiple catches. Not among them were freshmen Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, or redshirt freshman C.J. Prosise, either.

Best quote: Kelly won his 200th career game, becoming the fifth fastest to accomplish the feat (270 games) and second youngest (51 years, 310 days old, second only to Pop Warner) to do it, per Notre Dame, among college coaches with at least five years of service or 50 victories at a school that was classified as a major college. Asked during a Sunday teleconference what 200 career wins mean, Kelly said: "That I'm a pretty good coach when I recruit good players."

Next up: Notre Dame travels to Michigan for the final scheduled time, and for the second-ever night game at the Big House. College GameDay will be in town, just like it was last time. And we all know how that one ended. If the past four years are any indication, this one will likely come down to the wire. And it will likely give the winner a huge boost on the path to a potential BCS bowl berth.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tommy Rees stood on the sideline during the game's final minutes, laughing it up with Dan Fox and other teammates while donning a visor and watching Andrew Hendrix lead the Notre Dame offense on its final drive.

He received the post-game television treatment as the game's marquee player, was the recipient of a handful of high-fives on the way up the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel and even made one fan's day by tossing him a towel before disappearing into the locker room.

The senior's debut, or re-debut, or whatever you want to call it at this point (re-re-debut? re-re-re-debut?), could not have gone any differently from his last three home openers, particularly last year's.

And though it is just one game, and it was just a 28-6 win over a Temple team that probably stuck around longer than it should have, Saturday provided a breath of fresh air for a program that has dealt with quarterback uncertainty in one form or another throughout Brian Kelly's previous three years.

"I think we answered a lot of those questions right away with his ability to push the ball down the field," Kelly said. "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 had one of the top performances of his career against the Owls. He completed five of his first six passes, with the only incompletion coming on a balancing act from DaVaris Daniels that landed just outside the hashmark. He finished the day 16 of 23 for a career-high 346 yards with three touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over. He was sacked just once.

"We had hoped he'd throw the ball to us once or twice, and he didn't," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "He maybe had one overthrow. But he didn't give us any throws.

"He's a poised player. He understands their system. Some of our guys, we were showing the blitz, and we showed it, and he checked. So he's obviously well coached in that system."

That was evident to more than just Rhule in his head-coaching debut. Just ask captain TJ Jones, whose six catches for 138 yards made him the main beneficiary of Rees' strong outing.

"I think this year he was just a lot more comfortable at his position," Jones said. "He owned it. He owned the offense. He owned his checks. He was confident in knowing what the defense was going to do before they did it, and it allowed him to kind of just play football. It wasn't as much thinking; he was a lot more relaxed."

How so?

"You can sense his body language," Jones said. "The speed at which he makes checks when he reads the defenses. And when the ball's in the air -- he puts the ball away from the defenders. He knows where they're going to be and how to get the ball away from them."

Rees improved his career record as a starter to 15-4, and he was able to get his coach his 200th career victory on a day Kelly also received a five-year contract extension.

In the locker room after the contest, Kelly received a surprise game-ball from the man who led him to the first of those wins back in 1991, former Grand Valley State signal caller Jack Hull.

Irish sports information director Michael Bertsch had invited Hull earlier in the week, with the current investment adviser making the short trip with his wife and kids from St. Charles, Ill.

Hull, who was a redshirt senior during his year under Kelly, joked that the coach's infamous red-faced tirades are no different now than they were two decades ago, and that it wasn't long before he learned, like all of Notre Dame's quarterbacks have, that the only way to avoid them is to not mess up.

"That's kind of the 'it' thing that he kind of has," Hull said. "He kind of gets it from a football standpoint: If you can't do it, he's not going to force it, and he's going to figure out a different way to get it done."

Never might that be more evident than this season, as Rees entered camp as the unquestioned starter only after Everett Golson got booted from school for the semester after a 12-1 season.

Whether it was replacing an injured Dayne Crist or an ineffective Dayne Crist, whether it was throwing too many interceptions or coughing up too many fumbles, whether it was replacing Golson fresh off a suspension with boos raining down from the stands, Rees had yet to have a clean entrance as a starter.

That changed Saturday. The improved Tommy Rees that everyone had been hearing about throughout preseason camp was finally on display for all to see. And that could mean more special things for the Irish this year, though the man who holds their fate tighter than most is not about to say he told you so.

"No, none of that," Rees said of extra gratification given all he has gone through. "The pleasure for me was being able to go out there and play well enough to get a W. Playing for my teammates, playing for the coaches, playing for the University, the student body was great out there. They had unbelievable support. There is no added benefit for me for some of the hard times I've fallen on, but it's gone well."
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here's a quick look at what went down in Notre Dame's 28-6 season-opening win over Temple:

It was over when: George Atkinson III's two-yard touchdown rush with 5:37 left in the third quarter gave Notre Dame a 28-6 edge and some needed breathing room against a Temple team that hung around longer than most expected.

Game ball goes to: There is plenty of credit to go around on offense, but at the end of the day you have to go with Tommy Rees. The senior signal caller completed 16 of 24 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns. Most importantly, he did not turn the ball over.

Stat of the game: Four total missed field goals will stand out. So, too, will Temple's Jim Cooper having his extra-point attempt blocked by Jarron Jones. Irish coach Brian Kelly had said that Saturday would be somewhat of an audition for kickers Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza. Each missed a field goal try, leaving the Irish with a minor issue heading into Michigan next weekend.

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.

What to watch: Notre Dame vs. Temple

August, 29, 2013
Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday when the Irish host the Owls.

1. Running backs: William Mahone is out with an ankle sprain, but five other backs will get the chance to make plays Saturday, starting with George Atkinson III. Seeing how often, and how well, the offense runs the pistol is also noteworthy.

2. Jaylon Smith: The five-star freshman will likely start from Day 1, giving all a glimpse of what made him such a prized prospect and what allowed him to ascend up the depth chart so quickly in camp.

3. Defensive depth: If there were ever a game on Notre Dame's schedule to figure out what it has down the depth chart, especially on the increasingly thin defensive line, this is it. And not just because of the expected heat. Keep an eye on fresh faces Cole Luke and Max Redfield in the secondary.
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.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tommy Rees has control over Notre Dame's destiny for yet another season. And yes, the same was true last season, when he started just twice and made a handful of cameos despite relinquishing full-time No. 1 duties to Everett Golson.

"He was a backup quarterback, he was an assistant coach and kind of made everything go," Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. "If he would've taken a different stance, the whole season's probably completely different. I mean, he could've easily ruined the whole deal for everybody."

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesTommy Rees served as a backup last season and declined to transfer. Now he's the starter.
And he could have done the same after the season, with Golson deemed the quarterback of the future and with playing time looking more scarce for the ever-reliable next-man-in.

How things have played out since then illustrates just how beneficial it has been for the Irish to have a signal caller like Rees, whose contingent got its wish when he replaced Dayne Crist in the 2011 home opener, only to turn on him when he replaced Golson late in the 2012 home opener.

"When you win 12, they don't remember what happened the second game of the year," Martin said. "You guys do, we do, but a lot of the fans don't. They forgot that they were booing him. They forgot that it's hard to lead a two-minute drive at home when you're getting booed off the field."

Rest assured, Rees will be a major factor in another Notre Dame Stadium opener this Saturday against Temple, after Golson was hit with a semester suspension from school in May for academic misconduct.

And Notre Dame hopes the lessons Rees learned from a 12-month period that began with a suspension of his own and culminated with the senior in command of the offense once more can help serve a program looking to turn last year's meteoric rise into something resembling the norm.

"I probably should give a lot of credit to my parents, the way I was raised," Rees said of the way he's handled his career. "I love my teammates. I love the guys that I'm out there with every day, so for me there's not really another option. You've just got to stay prepared, and when the moment comes for you, you've got to be ready for those guys, because you count on them, they count on you, and that's really what our team's been built on. People say it's a family all the time, but until you're a part of it and until you feel how close this group is, it's kind of hard to explain."

Perhaps tellingly enough, not a single question among the 42 asked during head coach Brian Kelly's 42-minute Tuesday press conference was about Rees.

[+] EnlargeConnor Reilly
Courtesy of Mitchell LeffConnor Reilly, known for leading Temple onto the field, now will lead the Owls as quarterback.
For once, the closest thing to a quarterback drama comes from the visiting sideline, where Connor Reilly will start for Temple, winning over new coach Matt Rhule after entering the spring at No. 4 on the depth chart.

Interestingly enough, Reilly's father, Lt. Col. Neil Reilly, grew up in Rees' hometown of Lake Bluff, Ill. The connection between the two quarterbacks has led some in the 5,000-person community to label Saturday's tilt as the "Lake Bluff Bowl."

More importantly, Neil Reilly recently served with the Army in Afghanistan, and he flew a Temple flag over his battalion while deployed.

Connor Reilly repays the gesture by running onto the field before each game waving the same U.S. flag that his father flew as a squadron commander in the Army on several missions in Afghanistan.

"It's a really cool honor to do that for my dad, because I know he does that and serves and honors and protects my country," Connor Reilly said.

Irish lunch links

August, 27, 2013
For those asking: New layout, new home, same content.

Irish lunch links

August, 9, 2013
Practice viewing and interviews today. The Irish are back on campus.
Notre Dame's return trip to Temple will have to wait another year.

The Irish, who host the Owls Aug. 31 in both teams' 2013 opener, will not travel to Philadelphia until the 2015 season, one year later than initially scheduled, a Temple spokesperson confirmed.

Temple interim athletic director Kevin Clark had told last week that the 2014 contest was moved to 2015, at Lincoln Financial Field.

Notre Dame had no comment, as it is school policy to not speak on scheduling matters until a full season slate is released.

The move gives the Irish one less headache in ironing out their 2014 schedule, which currently has 13 opponents for just 12 spots. That season will be the first in which the school faces five ACC teams as part of its annual agreement accompanying the move of all of its sports other than football into the conference.

The most likely opponents to get dropped or moved from Notre Dame's 2014 slate are Rice, Purdue or Northwestern, all of which are currently slated to visit Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame's current 2014 lineup also consists of games at annual rivals USC and Navy, plus a home game against rival Stanford and five ACC games -- at Florida State and Syracuse (in East Rutherford, N.J.); home against Louisville, North Carolina and Wake Forest.

The Irish will also play their final game against Michigan for the foreseeable future, at Notre Dame Stadium. And they agreed this June to keep their Nov. 8, 2014, visit to Arizona State, while canceling a 2017 contest that had been scheduled for South Bend, Ind.

The move of the Temple game to 2015 at least momentarily gives the Irish a full 12-game slate for that season: home games against Texas, UMass, Navy, USC, Boston College and Virginia Tech; road games at Purdue, Pitt, Stanford, Clemson, Virginia and Temple.

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.

100-day checklist: Notre Dame

May, 21, 2013
Notre Dame does not have quite as many question marks heading into the 2013 season as it did last summer. For one, the Irish have their quarterback of the future. They also have a coach who proved during a perfect 2012 regular season that he is the right man for the job. And they have -- for the next 24 years, at least -- erased questions about their relevancy within the college football landscape.

But no teams are perfect (seriously, it hasn't been done since Auburn in 2010-11). So, with 100 days standing between us and the college football season -- and 102 standing between the Irish and their Aug. 31 opener against Temple -- we will take a look at three things the program needs to cross off its checklist this summer.

1. Find offensive playmakers: George Atkinson III bulked up this offseason and did not run for the track team to focus on adding to his workload. He is the most experienced man in an Irish backfield that lost its top two rushers from a season ago, but he will be pushed by redshirt sophomore Amir Carlisle, redshirt freshman William Mahone, junior Cam McDaniel and incoming freshman Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston, both of whom are four-star prospects. The three-man battle to replace Tyler Eifert at tight end, meanwhile, will be waged among Troy Niklas, Ben Koyack and Alex Welch.

2. Integrate incoming freshmen: Bryant and Folston are two of the incoming freshmen who appear ready-made for the college level. Linebacker Jaylon Smith and safety Max Redfield figure to see time as freshmen, too. Early enrollee receivers such as Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, both of whom saw added time following the spring departures of Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson, also may see playing time.

3. Stay levelheaded. This really shouldn't be much of a problem for a program and players who seemingly always have the bull's-eye on their back, regardless of the win-loss record. Still, a renaissance 2012 campaign and a return to college football's elite will only up the ante for this group to do similar things this fall, especially with so many pointing to Alabama's title-game rout as a sign that 2012 may have been a fluke.

Notre Dame mailblog

May, 10, 2013
What's happening?

Brad from Benton, Ky., writes: Matt- Any word on Tuitt's weight gain? During the Spring Game his physical appearance as opposed to last season was very bad. I'm just hoping it doesn't slow him down and make him less of the great end that he is. Thanks!

Matt Fortuna: Brad, in short, I wouldn't worry about it. Stephon Tuitt missed the first half of spring ball recovering from an offseason operation to repair a sports hernia that bothered him late last season, which, from personal experience as a child, I can confirm severely restricts your movements. (Even if you don't have a whole lot of athletic tools in the arsenal, like yours truly.)

Tyler Kelly from Jacksonville, N.C., writes: Where do you think Notre Dame will rank in the pre-season polls and how do you think they will finish?

Matt Fortuna: Tyler, it's never too early, is it? Based on some of the early post-spring indications (our Mark Schlabach has the Irish 10th,'s Andy Staples has them fifth,'s Jerry Palm has them slotted for the Orange Bowl), I'd expect this to definitely be a preseason top-10 team, maybe even a top-five. I'm not about to make a record prediction more than three months before the first ball of the season is kicked off, but I do think this team has the potential to be better than the 2012 team, even if the record at season's end may not indicate it.

Sam from Dallas writes: How will joining the ACC in 2014 affect the scheduling for the four open dates on their schedule going forward? I am taking into consideration the five ACC games and the three games with USC, Stanford and Navy to fill eight of the twelve slots. Would you expect ND to play at least three if not all four of those other games at home each year or possibly a neutral site game? Looking ahead do you see them scheduling home & home with teams like Texas in the future? It may be difficult to guarantee some teams home and home arrangements. Thnx.

Matt Fortuna: Sam, there are plenty of logistical issues with scheduling moving forward, some of which we covered this morning in conjunction with Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett. The Shamrock Series will continue, but does that become a ninth game or, in some cases, will an ACC game get to be used for that? I think the home/road configuration will depend on the year, as the Irish get three ACC home games one year and two the next. Look at 2014, for example: Notre Dame gets Louisville, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Stanford at home; it faces Florida State, Syracuse (in East Rutherford, N.J.), Navy (in Landover, Md.) and USC on the road. There are also home games scheduled for Rice, Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern, and road ones at Temple and Arizona State. That's 14 total games, and the only one I can say will stay on for certain among the second group is Michigan, as that will be the final matchup between the Wolverines and the Irish for the foreseeable future. So there are nine games. I would guess that Purdue stays on for that season, as the contract for that game runs through the 2014 season, two years before the Big Ten implements a nine-game conference schedule and makes that series more difficult to schedule. As for the rest, the Rice game is a one-game deal, the ASU series is seemingly up in the air, the Northwestern deal is part of a home-and-home that will be returned to Evanston, Ill., in 2018 and Temple is part of a three-game series that starts in 2013 at Notre Dame, continues in 2014 in Philadelphia and returns to Notre Dame in 2017.

Irish Lunch Links

March, 1, 2013


Irish Flips Top TE Jones, Back In Top 10
National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert discusses the impact No. 1 tight end Alize Jones, a former UCLA commit, will have at Notre Dame.