By The Numbers
2 Number changes prior to the game. Freshman cornerback Cole Luke switched from No. 3 in the preseason to No. 36, and junior safety Eilar Hardy, who donned No. 4 during the preseason and was listed as No. 19 in the pregame chart for Temple, took No. 16, which had been formerly worn by recent transfer Chris Badger (BYU).
TJ Jones (7) and Troy Niklas (85) had 51- and 66-yard receptions, respectively, against Temple.
3 Catches by sophomore wideout Chris Brown for 57 yards. That output in the opener surpassed his freshman year total of two receptions for 56 yards. Brown was one of eight Notre Dame receivers who saw action in the first half alone.
5 Quarterback pressures credited to senior Cat linebacker Prince Shembo who also regularly lined up a down lineman in some defensive packages while flanking out as a drop back in others. His impact went far beyond the four tackles he was credited with in the final stats.
8 Players who made their first career start on offense or defense at Notre Dame. The defense had sophomore end Sheldon Day, freshman Dog linebacker Jaylon Smith and senior safety Austin Collinsworth. For the offense it was junior center Nick Martin, sophomore right tackle Ronnie Stanley, sophomore running back Amir Carlisle, freshman receiver Corey Robinson and sophomore wideout C.J. Prosise.
10 Freshmen who saw action, with Corey Robinson, James Onwualu and Will Fuller all playing at receiver early. Defensively, outside linebacker Jaylon Smith started and cornerback/nickel Cole Luke and end Isaac Rochell both were inserted in the first half. Special teams included safety Max Redfield and cornerback Devin Butler, who also lined up on defense in the final quarter. Running backs Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston shared carries to finish the game.
11-0 Record under head coach Brian Kelly when Notre Dame does not commit a turnover, which they did not against the Owls. Four of those victories occurred last season. This also marked the first time the Irish didn’t turn the ball over in an opener since the 35-0 victory against Nevada in 2009.
26 Tackles recorded by the inside linebacker trio of fifth-year seniors Dan Fox (career high 10) and Carlo Calabrese (9), plus sophomore Jarrett Grace (7). They were the top three, with no one else totaling more than four. Brian Kelly described their play as spotty in the first half but much firmer and better in the second. Grace was active and the best in pass coverage, but the middle can be a vulnerable area against top tight ends.
32 Yards on both of junior DaVaris Daniels’ touchdown receptions from Tommy Rees in the game’s first 4:41 that gave Notre Dame a quick 14-0 lead. Daniels didn’t catch a scoring pass last year but his first two grabs against Temple were both six-pointers.
138 Yards receiving from senior TJ Jones on his six receptions. It marked the first time in his career he eclipsed the century mark in receiving, highlighted by his 51-yard bubble screen in the first quarter that set up the second touchdown. His previous career high was 97 yards on six grabs in last year’s home finale versus Wake Forest..
167 Rushing yards by the junior triumvirate of Amir Carlisle (68), Cam McDaniel (65) and George Atkinson (34) while mostly running from the pistol formation. That type of committee approach is likely to be the norm.
200 Career victories for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly after the win against Temple. His record with the Fighting Irish improved to 29-11. The most college victories ever posted by a former Notre Dame head coach was 249 by Lou Holtz, 100 of them with the Fighting Irish from 1986-96.
1978 Fifth-year senior left tackle Zack Martin and junior center Nick Martin became the first brother tandem to start together at Notre Dame along the offensive line since All-American center Dave Huffman and right guard Tim Huffman 35 years ago..
With 1:01 left in the first half, Temple scored on a short touchdown run to narrow its deficit to 14-6. Momentum was on its side and it had settled down after yielding two touchdowns in the opening 4:41. The Owls were in position to go into halftime feeling good about trailing only 14-6 and then receiving the second-half kickoff.
However, on the first play after the Temple kickoff, Irish quarterback Tommy Rees zipped a 15-yard bullet over the middle to junior tight end Troy Niklas for his first reception of the game. With the Temple secondary in awkward angles and no help on the back end, the 270-pound Niklas covered the final 50 or so yards rather easily.
That 66-yard touchdown quelled Temple’s momentum and gave Notre Dame breathing room entering the halftime locker room. It was even more pivotal when Temple’s opening drive of the second half was halted at the Irish six-yard line.
Stat Of The Game
It wasn’t so much that Rees passed for a career high 346 yards but that his yards per attempt averaged 15.04 yards, and the yards per completion 21.6.
Rees’ yards per attempt figure ranks as the third highest ever in a game by a Notre Dame quarterback who attempted a minimum of 15 passes. It was in the 35-0 opening-game victory against Nevada in 2009 that Jimmy Clausen set the single-game Notre Dame record with 17.50 yards per attempt (18 for 315). Clausen also is No. 2 at 15,42 that he achieved in the 49-21 Hawaii Bowl victory against Hawaii in 2008 (26 attempts for 401 yards).
Rees was the beneficiary of some huge YAC — yards after catch — on a 51-yard bubble screen to TJ Jones and then on a 66-yard touchdown to tight end Troy Niklas in which Niklas out-ran everyone the final 50 yards. However, Rees also placed the ball where it needed by on long 32-yard scoring tosses to DaVaris Daniels.
Brian Kelly’s Take On Receivers
The Irish head coach said prior to the season that he might have more weapons at his disposal on offense than any of his three previous seasons.
“You saw what I would hoping for,” he said. “You had [DaVaris] Daniels catch a touchdown. You had TJ Jones and obviously Chris Brown [with career-high yardage totals in a game]. You had Troy Niklas, you had running backs catch football … I think you’re going to see great distribution of the football across the board, and it’s going to be somebody new each week.
“Now, TJ Jones is going to be in the mix every single week, because he is one of the best wide receivers in the country. But you’re going to see a lot of guys contribute offensively. I think it’s for the better, I really do. It gives us great balance across the board.”
Offense — Junior tight end Troy Niklas’ 66-yard score broke open the game, but that was his lone catch. The other 50 or so snaps he was in saw him deliver numerous key blocks both on the run and pass, most notably helping to spring TJ Jones on a 51-yard gain on the second TD drive.
Defense: Matthias Farley & Austin Collinsworth — Their communication in the defensive backfield was “seamless” and a top highlight for Kelly. They kept everything in front of them and played within the team scheme. The secondary elevated its aggressiveness in the second half, especially with more man coverage, and the safeties were seldom out of place while also offering strong coverage.