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  • Irish Underwhelm Owls, 28-6

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame started fast with a pair 32-yard touchdown passes from Tommy Rees to DaVaris Daniels in the first five minutes, but appeared to quickly lose interest while completing a methodical 28-6 victory over the outmanned Temple Owls. There were even a few tense moments in the second quarter, but order was restored when Temple failed to convert its scoring opportunities. Troy Niklas rescued his flailing team by catching a pass over the middle, breaking a tackle and completing a 66-yard score 43 seconds before the half to give the Irish a 21-6 lead. Rees finished with 345 yards on 16 for 23 passing before giving way to Andrew Hendrix late in the fourth quarter.

    George Atkinson III scored a second half rushing touchdown for Notre Dame, but was outgained by Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel on the day. Meanwhile, quarterback Connor Reilly did his best to keep make his team competitive, and left a positive impression with nearly 300 yards of total offense and no turnovers. The Irish defense turned away all but one Temple scoring opportunity, but yielded considerable yardage in the middle of the field and were a long way from dominant.

    Both teams had glaring mistakes on special teams. Kicker Jim Cooper missed two easy field goal attempts and his only extra point try, while both Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza missed field goal tries for the Irish. The Owls fumbled a punt deep in their own end in the fourth quarter for the game’s only turnover, but Notre Dame elected to run out the clock rather than try to score a few meaningless points.

    The scoring plays to Daniels came quite easily, as the Irish took the opening kickoff and traveled 77 yards in three plays to score in just 1:26. Carlisle broke off a 45 yard run on the game’s first play, and Daniels scored moments later on a post route. On the next possession, T. J. Jones took a flat pass for 50 yards to set up Daniels’ next scoring catch on a corner route. At that point, a 70 point Notre Dame explosion seemed possible, as Temple appeared to be covering Irish receivers with an imaginary secondary.

    Unfortunately, the Irish offense became lethargic and their vaunted defense began to allow Reilly to get untracked. Consecutive long drives by the Owls late in the first quarter and early in the second ended with missed field goals attempts, but the visitors finally broke into the scoring column on a two yard run just one minute before halftime. Rees and Niklas calmed the restless home crowd with their long scoring hookup, and the issue was never in doubt thereafter. Atkinson’s score on Notre Dame’s first possession of the second half provided a more comfortable margin, although the Irish missed a few opportunities that were clearly available.

    Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:

    Will the Irish offense run at a quicker pace or will we see endless and mind-numbing sight adjustments, audibles, shifts and wasted timeouts as the play clock winds down to zero? While not exactly running an up tempo attack, the Irish did not bog down at the line of scrimmage.

    Which freshman will stand out during the game? Those who played did not do anything noteworthy. Running backs Greg Bryant and Taurean Folston each looked quite capable on a handful of carries in mop-up time.

    Will the second teamers on the defensive line play well enough to alleviate depth concerns? Frankly, I was not very impressed with the first teamers, especially since they have been called the best in the country by some pundits.

    Can Notre Dame’s inside linebackers replace the productivity of Manti Te’o? Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox made several tackles, but none were particularly hard hits or for losses. The group as a whole was decidedly mediocre in pass coverage.

    Will the Irish special teams demonstrate discernible improvement? T. J. Jones actually returned a few punts for plus yardage, but the overall coverage and return units looked like they were sleepwalking. Even worse, the punting and kicking were barely at a high school level.

    Which running back will make the strongest case for more playing time? Both Carlisle and McDaniel bring different but important dimensions to the position. Good things happened when they touched the ball.

    Will Notre Dame convert touchdowns from its red zone opportunities, or will we watch in horror as endless fade passes crash to the turf? The long scoring plays precluded any Irish red zone chances until the second half. Atkinson’s two yard plunge converted one opportunity while the half-hearted, game ending series run by Hendrix accounted for the other.

    Can Dan Hicks help Irish fans get over the loss of Tom Hammond? Hicks was competent and generally went unnoticed, so that’s a big step up from his predecessor.

    The Irish don’t have much time to overcome what Coach Brian Kelly called “rust”. Many Notre Dame fans who watched the game were justifiably more alarmed, but that is what elevated expectations can do to a program. Generally, I would prefer to see more intensity and emotion from the defense. There were very few notable hits, and the quarterback had all day to throw when Notre Dame did not blitz. Linebackers tended to catch running backs and receivers rather than drill them, and the middle zones were open to the pass most of the day.

    As I mentioned in the pregame discussion, the offense will go as far as Rees can guide it. This game translated into a few well-executed scoring throws and a few mind-boggling misses. In other words, it was hit or miss. Did I mention the lousy special teams? Anyway, there is plenty of room for improvement if this team is going to travel well into the Big House of Horrors next weekend.

    47 Responses to “Irish Underwhelm Owls, 28-6”

    1. I totally agree with your comments. The play of the vaunted D was especially disheartening. At times, the OL play also was less than stellar.

      I watched a bit of the VT-Bama game, and am thankful Bama was not today’s opponent. They showed no signs of rust. For that matter, neither did Temple.

      A lot reasons to view the game with MU with trepidation.

    2. irishhawk50 says:

      It seemed the Irish sleep walked through this one. Reilly was way too good for a first time rookie against the Irish D. I think they had a W penciled in before the game. I was not impressed. There better be a big jump between week one and two if they are going to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor. Rees was the bright spot.

    3. NDBonecrusher says:

      All in all, pretty “Meh”. Got off to a great start, no turnovers, liked Carlisle in first start. Should be satisfied with the W, but there is no pleasing me. Very adequate. As Dom Delouise said in History of the World, “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling, but nice”.

    4. Rocket Bob says:

      Not encouranging going into the Michigan game. I was disappointed in how there was no pass rush on defense and no punishing running game. This team will be lucky to win eight games.

    5. I was stunned by the lack of emotion on both offense and D. ND was not emotionally ready to play.
      I predicted ND 28 Temple 24 = I got ND’s score right at least.

      Next week – ND will play much better, but fall Mich. 28 ND 21

      I expect major changes after next week’s loss, following by a winning streak lasting until “Stanford.

    6. Michael Scott says:

      I didn’t see the game. How did the offensive line play?

      • O-Line play was excellent at times. There were a few breakdowns and the interior run blocking was poor. Pass protection was adequate. If they had a quarterback who could hit WIDE OPEN RECEIVERS, it would have been a much better games.

    7. Rickynd15 says:

      Actually, I’m going to take the opposition to all of the above thoughts. A win is a win is a win. There was a time when these first games were not automatic, and now we’re going to whine about an easy one??? One would expect the team to be jazzed up for next week and for the coaching staff to open their playbook to more exotic packages to beat a formidable UM team. I was most disappointed in the number of penalties, but beyond that, there were:
      1) no turnovers
      2) good pass efficiency and deep talent at running back
      3) solid defense (even if not overwhelming in the first game)
      Buck up guys! We won!!!

      • Stefan Morgan says:

        I’m hoping offensively this was don’t show your hand to michigan. The underneath LB coverage was not good. Louie is going to be double teamed all year so I think we need to send more blitzes in the A gaps to weather this and get pressure. Team didn’t look in great shape on defense but hopefully that was just first game gas outs. I expect a lot more running the football by GA3 and Amir next week. Stop the mobility of Gardner and we beat michigan. GO IRISH!

      • The problem is, once the playoff starts next year a win is not a win. We’ll be competing for spots and so style points will come into play. We need to get in the habit of burying weaker teams. It’s only one game, but considering how other top teams beak weaker competition I would have liked to see a better effort from ND.

    8. There are some teams that would have CRUSHED Temple. And there are probably 3 or 4 that would have handled the Irish quite nicely. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. But “high expectations” right now? I don’t think so.

    9. Decent win but nothing great. Would have loved to see the Irish put the pedal to the mettle and pound someone by a huge score. Rees played excellent but when you get all those total yards you need to score more than 28 points. And those special teams? Can you say UGLY.

    10. This game turned out as expected. A wider margin of victory or a more dominate performance was unnecessary.
      I believe Kelly knows what he is doing and has the team exactly where he wants them.
      I expect ND will crush Michigan rather easily.
      Then the whining will be that Michigan isn’t that good.

    11. The game was never really in doubt, it was nothing to write home about, it was a win. The coaches will have a lot of coaching to do this week but they are up to it.

      How good is this team? So far it’s good enough to beat Temple 28-6 while not firing all its guns at once. We’ll be fine.

    12. martinjordan says:

      1. Daniels and Jones looked Great!
      2. Carlisle, McDaniel, and Atkinson were okay when you take away the 45 yard run.
      3. The offensive line was good – no holding penalties, nice holes, and no pressure on the QB.
      4. Rees made good decisions, some good throws, a few errant throws, and remains as immobile as ever.
      5. Troy Niklas did a great job blocking and made his one catch count.
      6. The Defense kept everything in front of them.
      7. The pass interference on Jackson was a bad call but the one on Shumate was a good call.
      8. They got no pressure from the three man front.
      9. Special teams are still a disaster. The kickoff team gave allowed a couple of good returns.
      10. Temple self destructed as much as anything.

    13. TimmyIrish says:

      We should always be happy with a win, but I concur that there are a lot of areas to improve. Special teams was particularly poor…(when was the last time we were good at them?)…Lettting the first punt bounce, but then catching the next one inside the 10…poor headwork. Our own pooch punting needs work, too. Those are opportunities to pin an opponent back and tip the field position advantage in out favor. Field goals…ouch. I think “underwhelming” is a perfect description of the game. Clemson v. Georgia was on an entirely different level. Big week upcoming. I think we’ll find out a lot next Saturday.
      Go Irish!

    14. Pretty blah and O+D game plans leave head scratching.Expected lot more intensity

    15. This was a solid first win that allowed them to shake of rust before going to ann arbor.
      Other teams like OSU did not blow away lesser teams mistake free. So why should ND not get the same pass as other top teams. When you rush only three most of the game you are not going to have the pressure we re used to. They ran good passed good and didn’t give up huge plays
      Go look at Devin Gardners stats they pale in comparrison to Tommys for the first game
      You don’t think Michigans not on thier mind. You will see the playbook opened and defensive packsges we became so accustomed to last year Its True Revenge Time

    16. a win is a win but against a team without a single four star recruit on its roster there are some very alarming issues:
      1 special teams is horrific. no excuses at this point four years in. good teams win games with special teams and ours will lose us games in close situations. punting, field goals and returns are again among the worst in the nation. this is 100% on Kelly at this point. No sing of improvement
      2 defense line got pushed around all day and pressure could only be applied with a rush of six. very disturbing against a very bad team
      3 after the first four minutes the offense was flat. the running game is inconsistent
      4 Rees had big numbers and for the most part did well but as always he locks on one receiver and no matter what forces the ball to that person
      5 two freshman superstar runners that only get mop up duty??
      6 the play of the safeties was poor
      I am hoping we can turn this up for Michigan. I am optimistic but very worried after watching yesterday

    17. brendenomalley says:

      i thought the D looked less than stellar. Once again we appear very unathletic in the middle of the field. We miss Manti more than any player in recent memory. We did not tackle well in the first half either. UM is far more athletic and we will struggle.

      Rees is still the same. He made some solid throws and missed some easy ones. he has to be consistent. i think we had better be ready for a rocky year.

    18. D line looked gassed. Lines are not in shape. Look far different from last year.

    19. Camarillo Brillo says:

      3 troubling stats on defense:

      1. Between Nix, Day and Tuitt-only 5 total tackles, 1 sack.
      2. Of the 5 tackles, only 2 solo.
      3. Only 2 tackles for loss.

      Certainly there is work to do this week.

    20. Ghost of Joe Moore says:

      Totally agree with Vannie’s assessment. Rees looked like the Rees of old. He had good yardage but no consistency on his touch balls. Wide open receivers missed by over and under thrown balls. No mobility in the pocket. I seriously doubt he lasts the season.

      The same old mediocrity takes over the Irish when they get a lead. They looked half asleep at times especially on offense. No urgency and a lack of any fire. Indeed compare that to how Bama played against a much tougher opponent in VT. They simply came ready to play and executed for 4 quarters. Yes as someone stated – they showed no “rust”.

      The defense is NOT going to be better than last year. Of course they only rushed 3 at most times but rare was there any penetration. Giving up +300 yards in the air to the Mighty Temple Owls may be a tell tale sign of things to come.

      The running backs have talent but may be over coached a bit on waiting for holes to develop. They need to hit the holes quicker and none really showed any bursts at the line. Hopefully someone really steps up.

      Certainly they are not showing a lot on offense in light of Michigan coming next weekend but execution on both sides of the ball were lacking and I doubt that they can simply throw a switch and change it in one week. Michigan will be waiting – it is the last game in the series for who knows how long and based on what I saw against Temple – it will be a hard pill to swallow if the Wolverines take the win in Ann Arbor.

      Not impressed with this game at all.

    21. Reese looked good and so did the RBs and WRs. But the DEFENSE (stupid penalties) and the KICKING GAME (WTF!!??!!?) better get their heads out of their a$$es!!!!

    22. Priceless headline, Jvan.

    23. The Defense was mediocre at best. Our much vaunted “defensive front” got no penetration against an O-Line they should have crushed. “Chocolate Thunder” was more like “Chocolate Whimper” – especially when he allowed himself to be blocked out of the running lanes for the QB which enabled Temple to make unacceptably long 1st downs. The D-backs looked slow and confused. The LB were not much of a factor. We should not have had to blitz to get pressure on the Temple QB.

      On the O side, it was offensive. Rees threw into coverage, which if done against U of M (or any other competent team on our schedule) will result in INTs. In addition, Rees repeatedly missed wide open receivers and showed little mobility in the pocket. At the start, the running game looked good but Kelly inexplicably refused to seriously exploit our advantage on the edges of the line (especially on the Left) and just kept running into the stacked Temple defense in the center.

      The special teams were just awful.

      Temple could have won this game, if not for some lucky drops by their recievers and the muffed punt.

      If we play like this against the competent teams on our schedule we will be lucky to go 9-3 and will not get a BCS bowl. If we play like this against U of M, they will boot our butts all the way from Ann Arbor back to Notre Dame.

    24. Those first couple of scores had me pretty excited. However, I saw an unacceptable amount of vanilla play from both sides of the ball. I pray the offensive finds some torque and the defense finds some intensity. Competence and Violence of Action.

    25. Things do not look good…D-line looks fat-slow -I saw no head-hunters. Special teams still poor. Lets hope for the best.

      • I agree, I thought nix looked a little hefty. I thought their goal was around 320 so he can play more downs..

    26. Four years in and Kelly still does not get special teams. This is inexcusable.When are reporters going to start to hold his feet to the fire about this?

      • Kelly is totally absent with special teams…4 years now and completely unaware of the importance of kickers, punters..special teams on coverage and returns

    27. I’m sorry, but the first play of the game has me concerned about the whole year. You have all of spring practice and fall practice, game planning, etc. and your first play is too many men on the field? Really? What does that say about preparation? Or am I overreacting? It was laughable, and sad.

    28. Does anyone not remember what Coach Kelly said last week…there was absolutely no tape on Temple with a new coach. A win is a win AND we used a vanilla game plan. Special teams are a joke…Agreed! Lets give the guys this week and start the complaining if they turn in this same performance against the SKUNK BEARS…GO IRISH GO!

    29. Not sure what to make of first game performances. To often as fans we give to much credit when our team looks dominant and panic when they display some rust and fail to overly impress. I have been screaming for years these are the kind of opponents they should open with for this exact reason. Work out the kinks, underperform and still win by 22. Saying all that, every part of this team needs to take 2 steps forward to win in Ann Arbor. Defense across the board was mediocre at best. Shocking to me that Nix is double teamed all game and the rest of the line couldn’t get to the QB even when we blitzed. Rees was good but still missed some wide open receivers downfield. Seems to me they will settle in to 2 or 3 backs at the most because you need some consistency back there in the bigger games.

      I think they win by 2 tds if these areas improve.

    30. Can’t add much to the discussion. D line was slow, slow,slow and razor thin in depth. Let’s hope Diaco went vanilla. Still not impressed with in game adjustments. We need a big bruising, fast running back. There is still a huge gap between SEC talent and ND.

      • Fox and Calabrese better bring the wood against Michigan. This team had better be up for this game because MI will bring lots of intensity.

    31. I agree with David’s comment about Diacco hopefully going vanilla with the D. I watched a replay of the Michigan game against Central Michigan (and yes I know inferior competition and all of that) but our defense better step up big time this Saturday or else we are going to be destroyed in Ann Arbor on National TV.

    32. Does anyone know where I can watch the Notre Dame Temple replay at?

    33. Bring Lou Holtz as Special Teams Coordinator.

    34. I agree with all who used the word lethargic. Offense had big plays against a second-rate defense, not bad but nothing spectacular. Defense couldn’t stop long methodical drives, and seemed very easy to move the ball against. It looked the the pre-2012 teams, rather weak on both sides of the ball, with little identity. For example, Rees couldn’t consistently throw completions to keep drives alive, defense couldn’t close out on third down or create sacks/turnovers. It looks like a long, mediocre season lies ahead.

      • If that was all ND has, 8 wins best scenario. We will all know after Saturday. And no I don’t believe “good” losses.

    35. Reading some of mechicken BS. If ND doesn’t beat these c**ksuckers I’m really going to be pissed.

    36. Speaking of Meatchicken and phantom games. I must admit the Fab Five and the way they won all those games back in the 90’s was just astounding. Amateur athletes who played really like professionals. Just amazing. What’s that? You mean all those victories were expunged? Paying players? You mean the University of Fielding Yost and other Klu Klux Klan members CHEATED? Well they would never cheat again (practicing more than the NCAA allows) would they? And they wouldn’t let boosters pay players under the table again (#1 class) would they?

    37. Time to krunk the smelly skunk.