SOUTH BEND, Ind. — OK, so that 42-10 prediction didn't quite come to fruition, the 28-6 Notre Dame victory over Temple hopefully not ruining your lofty expectations of me. (Hey, I got the win part right, right?)
So how do you look at it? Two ways should cover it.
First, there's the "everything is rosy because the Irish won" approach. A win is a win is a win, regardless of opponent, site or score. And there were enough good things that happened in Saturday's season opener at Notre Dame Stadium to support the rosy crowd.
Then there's the other guy (if you aren't him, you know him). He's the guy who's never pleased, the one who can't believe Notre Dame didn't beat Temple 128-6.
So where does this one fall? How about somewhere in between.
"Openers are probably for coaches the most difficult because the preparation and the planning, you don't know what to expect, really," ND coach Brian Kelly said.
With that said, here's the good, the bad and the beautiful from Notre Dame's opener.
Temple isn't Alabama defensively, but Tommy Rees' return to the starting lineup was impressive, as in 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions impressive.
Detractors had tabbed Rees "Turnover Tommy," but against the Owls, he was "Touchdown Tommy." He connected twice with DaVaris Daniels, and after Temple threatened to take momentum into the locker room with a late first-half touchdown, he connected with Troy Niklas for a 66-yard TD that jumped Uncle Mo back to the Irish sideline.
More good? How about Rees' receiving corps, headlined by TJ Jones (six receptions, 138 yards) and running mate Daniels (three catches, 69 yards, two TDs), who left after suffering a groin injury, although Kelly said he was playing it safe by keeping him out the entire second half.
And then there was Niklas. With predecessor and current Cincinnati Bengal Tyler Eifert watching from the sideline, Niklas caught an intermediate pass and outran the Temple defense for a demoralizing TD right before halftime.
Not as dynamic, but the Irish running game was good enough. Five running backs combined for 193 net yards, a 5.6 average.
Defensively, Notre Dame was good, but it just didn't feel as dominating of an effort as we became accustomed to last year. Ten different Owls caught passes, and starting QB Connor Reilly looked poised, although he did struggle with overthrows. Still, the Irish defense allowed only six points, and that's what matters most.
"[O]ur defense does not surrender big plays and keeps the points down and really makes you work to sustain drives and to get it into the end zone," Kelly said.
Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza each missed a field goal. Brindza boomed a pair of punts that didn't need to be boomed, and they landed in the end zone.
Against Temple, special teams shortcomings probably don't come back to haunt you, particularly when the Owls missed a pair of field goals and an extra point themselves. Against a Big Ten team on the road at night (i.e. Michigan next week), it's something that can't happen.
Was there a coach in America who had a better day than Kelly? His team won its season opener. He won his 200th career game. And before the fourth-year Irish coach stepped to the postgame podium, athletic director Jack Swarbrick had a little announcement (one that leaked late in the game) about a contract extension.
"[W]e have entered into a new agreement that ensures that Brian will continue to provide the leadership that has fundamentally changed this program, restored it, given it the foundation that it needs for continued success in the future," Swarbrick said.
Kelly discussing some of the elements of his contract:
"So when we come to an agreement, it's not necessarily that within it I get a lunch stipend on Tuesdays and Thursdays."
Rees in assessing how he played:
"[G]ood enough to win the game."
Temple coach Matt Rhule after the Owls allowed TDs the first two times ND had the ball:
"Those first two drives were obviously not the way we wanted to play."
What to Take Away?
Let's head straight to the bottom line. This was a performance that was good enough to beat Temple. ND was dynamic on its first two drives, but from then on, it was kind of ho-hum inside Notre Dame Stadium. There will be nothing ho-hum about next week's visit to Michigan, and a performance like this probably won't get it done.
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