WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
After a thrilling 24-14 comeback victory over East Carolina last Thursday in Greenville, No. 21 Temple returns home this weekend to host No. 9 Notre Dame on Halloween night at a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field.
Not only will the game be played on a national holiday, but also in front of a national audience, as Saturday’s 8 o’clock kickoff time on ABC will mark Temple’s first primetime game in program history.
As the only match up this week between two nationally ranked teams, ESPN’s “College Gameday” program will be live from Independence Mall Saturday morning at nine. It is only the second time that Gameday has visited Philadelphia in its 28 years of broadcasts (’02: Harvard vs Penn).
Temple (7-0, 1st in AAC East), will face their toughest opponent thus far, and head coach Matt Rhule believes the spotlight will not deter his team from the task at hand.
“I’m not concerned at all we won’t be ready to play the game,” said Rhule. “I’m not concerned that the moment will be too big. Are we good enough to be able to hang with Notre Dame? That’s the concern.”
Notre Dame (6-1), is coming off of a 41-31 victory over Southern California two weeks ago in South Bend. As one of college football’s most storied and popular teams, Saturday’s crowd will likely hold a majority of Fighting Irish faithful.
“We know the East Coast has always been a strong area in terms of support. That doesn’t surprise me,” said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. “I don’t think it’s a huge surprise that there will be a lot of Notre Dame fans there, but I think there will be a lot of Temple fans there as well. We’re prepared for that.”
Depleting injuries have been a regular occurrence for the Fighting Irish this year, as the season’s starting running back Tarean Folston tore his ACL in Week 1, while quarterback Malik Zaire suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 2. Since Week 3, depth has been shown on the offensive end, as Freshman quarterback Deshone Kizer has assumed the starting role along with Senior running back C.J. Prosise in the backfield.
— WHIP RADIO (@WHIPRADIO) October 31, 2015
In five games as starting quarterback, Kizer has completed 100 of 153 passes for 1,370 yards, including 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. For Prosise, he is only 88 yards away from 1,000 yards rushing on the year, and has reached the endzone 11 times on 129 carries.
At the wide receiver position, the focus has been on Philadelphia native Will Fuller, who feels that this game against Temple is a dream come true.
“I feel like Philly is being put on the map now (for football),” Fuller said. “I see guys getting offers left and right. When I was in high school it was real hard for me. I see we’re on the map a lot more than we used to be. Philly is doing a real good job right now.”
Fuller has also had a ‘real good’ season, as the six-foot Senior has tallied 702 yards on 32 receptions, including a team-high eight receiving touchdowns. Notre Dame’s offense averages 38 points per game, and have outscored opponents 78-37 in the first quarter alone.
For Temple, the focus has been on their defensive prowess, a unit that has forced 13 total turnovers this season. As a team that surrenders only 14.6 points per game (8th best in FCS), Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich stresses teamwork and execution.
“It’s all about us right now,” said Matakevich. “We’ve got to stay together, stick to the process. You could definitely feel the excitement around campus, but you can’t let that get in the way of what you got to do.”
Notre Dame’s defensive front will look to prevent Owls’ halfback Jahad Thomas from positive yardage on the ground, as Thomas has earned 14 total touchdowns in seven games. Despite finding the endzone twice against East Carolina, Thomas only tallied 66 rushing yards, the lowest number he has had in a game this season.
“We know it’s a great opponent ahead of us,” said Thomas. “It’s a great opportunity to go out here on Saturday. It’s going to be a hell of a game.
Saturday night will be the first match up between both schools since Week 1 of the 2013 campaign, in which Temple lost 28-6 at South Bend in Rhule’s debut as Temple’s head coach.
WEEK 8: #9 NOTRE DAME (6-1) at #21 TEMPLE (7-0), OCTOBER 31, 2015
LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD, PHILADELPHIA, PA
TV: 8PM ON ABC RADIO: WHIP Temple Radio (Pregame coverage 7:30)
ODDS: ND -10.5, O/U: 51