Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Rhule, same old Temple in loss at South Bend

There could have been easier places for Matt Rhule to make his debut as Temple head football coach, but the schedule dictated it would be in South Bend, Indiana against one of the best-known programs in the history of college football.

Tommy Rees' return to the starting quarterback's role was a smashing success, with the Notre Dame senior throwing for a career-best 346 yards along with three touchdowns to lead the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish to a convincing 28-6 season-opening win over the over-matched Owls.

Rees, a 12-game starter in 2011 who backed up Everett Golson during the Irish's run to the BCS National Championship Game last season, completed 16-of-23 passes and fired a pair of 32-yard scoring strikes to DaVarris Daniels to help Notre Dame (1-0) head coach Brian Kelly earn his 200th career victory.

T.J. Jones came up with a big game as well for the Fighting Irish, amassing 138 yards on six receptions.

Golson was suspended for the fall semester for failing to fill academic obligations.

Connor Reilly threw for 228 yards on 23-of-46 passing while adding 65 on the ground for Temple (0-1), but the Owls allowed 544 total yards in its first season opener not against Villanova since 2008.

Saturday's matchup was the first ever between the schools.

Villanova, interestingly enough, fell 24-14 at Boston College, in the Eagles debut of former Temple head football coach Steve Addazio.

Notre Dame's defense then forced a quick three-and-out, and Rees went right to work again. His next pass hit Jones in stride for a 51-yard gain deep into enemy territory, and Daniels burned the Owls' secondary again for another 32- yard touchdown grab two plays later to put Temple in a quick 14-0 hole.

The Owls were able to get something going near the end of the first quarter, but an extended drive that got as far as the Irish 15 ended without points after Jim Cooper misfired on a 32-yard field goal attempt.

Cooper missed wide right from 43 yards out on Temple's next possession, which again got into the red zone before being backed up by a delay of game penalty and Stephon Tuitt's sack of Reilly.

The Owls finally got on the board late in the first half, with Reilly directing a 9-play, 78-yard sequence highlighted by completions of 26 and 20 yards to Ryan Alderman and Romond Deloatch, respectively.

Deloatch's catch set up a 1st-and-goal that Kenny Harper cashed in with a 1-yard plunge that came 1:01 prior to the intermission.

Cooper's extra point try was blocked by Jarron Jones, however, and the Owls' momentum was swiftly stopped when Rees hit tight end Troy Niklas over the middle for a tide-turning 66-yard touchdown that enabled Notre Dame to enter the break owning a 21-6 advantage.

Temple did make a bid to get back in it, with Reilly coming up with a pair of big third-down completions as the Owls took the initial series of the second half inside the Notre Dame 10. However, the Irish defense stiffened to force four straight incompletions and the Owls turned the ball over on downs.

Notre Dame proceeded to churn out 94 yards in just seven plays, including Rees' 33-yard pass to Chris Brown that set up George Atkinson's 2-yard touchdown that gave the Irish a 22-point lead with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

The Owls failed to threaten from that moment on, with their final drive stopped on downs at the Irish 33 following a Reilly incompletion.

Notes: Rees' previous career high for passing yards was 334, set against Tulsa on October. 30, 2010 ... Jones had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, surpassing a 97-yard output against Wake Forest during November 17 of last season ... Of Kelly's 200 wins, 29 have come at Notre Dame and 118 were compiled at Division II Grand Valley State from 1991-2003. He also won 34 games at Cincinnati (2006-09) and 19 at Central Michigan (2004-06) ... Rhule was a Temple assistant for six years from 2006-11 and the assistant offensive line coach of the New York Giants last season ... In their last non-Mayor's Cup season opener, the Owls took down Army by a 35-7 score at West Point on August 29 of that year.

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