WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Well, so much for administering mayhem from the get-go.
Temple football’s defensive unit — which was renowned for its toughness and playmaking abilities under former head coach Matt Rhule — reeked of inexperience and inferiority during Geoff Collins’ head coaching debut Saturday afternoon, as Notre Dame’s offense finished with 606 total yards (422 rushing) in its 49-16 win over the Owls at Notre Dame Stadium.
Three Fighting Irish players rushed for over 100 yards apiece, as quarterback Brandon Wimbush (106) and halfbacks Josh Adams (161) and Dexter Williams (124) combined for 391 yards and four touchdowns.
“The beginning was bad. The wheels fell off at the end,” Collins said after the game. “There’s a lot of fun moments and exciting moments that I’m really looking forward to as being the first-time head coach. This moment right now is not one of them. I thought we came out slow early. I told the kids at halftime, I said I thought I did a poor job. We had a bunch of rookies playing, especially on defense that kind of acted like rookies at times. And I told them the truth: I thought I acted like a rookie early.”
NOTRE DAME WASTED NO TIME
Collins’ honeymoon period with Temple ended rather swiftly. After Notre Dame opened the game with a 30-yard kickoff return, it took the Fighting Irish just two plays and 33 seconds to reach the endzone. The first play from scrimmage was a 30-yard completion from Wimbush to receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, and the latter was a 37-yard rushing touchdown from Adams, which helped make the score 7-0 before Temple’s defense could even take a breather. It was the fastest Notre Dame had scored an offensive touchdown in its season opener since 1963.
Then, four possesions later, Notre Dame tacked on another seven points. This time, Wimbush showed off his agility with a touchdown of his own — a nine-yard rush which capped off a six-play, 59-yard drive for the Fighting Irish. At the 5:50 mark, Notre Dame led 14-0. Before the first quarter ended, Owls’ kicker Austin Jones, who tore his ACL against Memphis last October, cut the score to 14-3 with a 36-yard field goal. But on the ensuing drive, Notre Dame responded, as Wimbush threw a dart to tight end Nic Weishar in the front left area of the endzone, which helped bump the score up to 21-3 after 15 minutes.
MARCHI WINS TEMPLE’S PRESEASON QB BATTLE
After much speculation as to which of the four “Above The Line” Temple quarterbacks was going to take the first snap, reshirt sophomore Logan Marchi turned out to be the winner. Although he was missing his leading receiver in Ventell Bryant — who didn’t travel to South Bend with the team due to a lingering hamstring injury he suffered this summer — Marchi completed 19-of-35 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. The first pass went to Keith Kirkwood (12-yards) with six minutes before halftime, and the second was thrown to Broderick Yancy (11-yards) early in the fourth quarter.
“I think we played alright. I missed a few routine throws,” Marchi said. “I think we gotta execute a little more on offense and help the defense out, stay on the field. We’ve got a great receiving core. We’ve got great depth at receiver. Those guys did a great job.”
Collins was pleased with how Marchi performed, but wouldn’t comment on if he plans to keep Marchi as his starter against Villanova next Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. This means Marchi will battle alongside Frank Nutile, Todd Centeio and Anthony Russo for first-team reps in practice once again.
“I thought [Marchi] had rythym,” Collins said. “I thought he had timing, control of the offense. I thought Logan performed admirably. Probably a little too much gamesmanship on my part. I probably carried it a little too far with the quarterback battle, situation.
“You guys are going to get tired of me saying it, but every single thing that we do is evaluated on a week-to-week and a day-to-day basis, with how you practice, how you prepare, how you perform. All your reps are determined throughout the week. And that’s for every single position.”
Prior to Marchi’s touchdown connection with Kirkwood (which made the score 28-10 at halftime), Notre Dame had a commanding 25-point lead. With 11:09 remaining in the second quarter, Wimbush threw a five-yard dart to St. Brown in the endzone, which completed an eight-play, 76-yard drive in under four minutes.
At the 1:22 mark in the third quarter, the Fighting Irish scored again. This time, halfback Tony Jones, Jr. ran across the goal line for a seven-yard touchdown, which gave Notre Dame a comfortable 35-10 lead after the extra point.
Temple’s second and last touchdown to Yancy came with 12:05 left in the game. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, the score was 35-16, but in the final nine minutes, Notre Dame added two more touchdowns — a one-yard rush from Adams (42-16) and a one-yard rush from Williams (49-16).
Temple’s offense totalled 330 yards (245 passing, 85 rushing). The Owls’ leading rusher was Ryquell Armstead, who finished with 67 yards on 19 carries. Their leading receiver was sophomore Isaiah Wright, who had a career and game-high 79 yards on four catches. Kirkwood also caught four passes for 60 yards.
Wimbush completed 17-of-30 passes for 184 yards. He also threw an interception in the third quarter, which was returned by Temple linebacker Mike Jones.
As for time of possesion, Temple led 33:49 to 22:61. But that’s a misleading stat.
The Owls commited six penalties for 42 total yards, while the Fighting Irish committed four for 20.
Notre Dame kicker James Yoon missed two field goal attempts — one from 44-yards out and one from 47-yards.
The paid attendance at Notre Dame Stadium was 77,662 — its 256th consective sellout.
Temple (0-1) will play host to Villanova at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 9 at 3:30 p.m.
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.