Quarterback DeShone Kizer ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns in Notre Dame’s 24-20 win over Temple on Halloween night. (USA Today Images)
It was a week long hype akin to Eagles/Dallas in Philadelphia, but finally ESPN Gameday was gone and it was game night @ Lincoln Financial Field for the Temple Owls (7-0,4-0) and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1) – see preview here. As big a Temple win would be for the program, in many ways this was a more important game for the Irish as they looked to keep their FBS Playoff hopes alive, while Temple could still reach their goals of winning the American Athletic Conference east division, possibly hosting the AAC championship, and going to a major bowl game, even w/ a loss. Win or lose, what Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule called a “3 hour commercial for Temple University”, was a great chance to show the country what a great school Temple is.
The opening drive was taken right down the field by Notre Dame, 12 plays, 74 yds, w/ the big plays being not by the offensive stars noted in my preview, but keepers by ND QB DeShone KIZER. One was a 2nd and 10, 11 yards for a 1st and goal, and then a 4 yd TD run. He would wind up being a big problem for the Owls all night mostly w/ his feet – 143 yards on 17 carries.
The Owls did get on the board a few possessions later, the drive kept alive early by a good throw by P. J. Walker and an even better catch by Ventell Bryant right at the sticks. The drive also featured the trickeration of the week in a flea flicker, Jahad Thomas, to Walker to Robby Anderson but the drive fizzled @ the ND 42 and Austin Jones made a season long 41 yd FG to make it 7-3 w/ 2:25 left in the 1st period.
After the Defense flashed their top ten scoring prowess on an interception of Kizer by Praise Martin-Oguike @ the Temple 6, the Owls proceeded to march down the field, 94 yds, 8 plays /w big yardage coming on a 39 yard run by Thomas to get them out of the shadow of the goalline, and a 26 yd pass to Bryant. It ended on a 12 yd pass and great catch by Brandon Shippen for the TD putting Temple in the lead 10-7 w/ 6:17 left in the half. That excitement was short-lived as on a perfect option call by Kizer, the 3rd play of the drive, ND got it right back as he took off for 79 yds.
Once again the Temple D saved the day w/ a broken up pass and tip in the end zone by Tavon Young that turned into an int. by Tyler Matakevich (5). A few plays later the Owls ran out the clock so the 1st half ended Notre Dame 14 – Temple-10. W/ two picks in the red zone Temple kept it from being at least 6 points worse.
ND scored 1st after the break, but only a FG as the D stiffened once again in the red zone to make it 17-10 w/ 7:03 left in the 3rd qtr.
The Irish defense, seemed to take over the game as the Owls could not sustain a drive the 1st 2 possessions of the 2nd half.
That changed on their 3rd drive that started w/ 3:12 left in the 3rd qtr going 14 plays, 78 yds, as Thomas swept into the EZ to tie the game w/ 10:51 left in regulation. Helped out by some timely defensive penalties including a targeting personal foul to give the Owls 1st and goal from the 4 and also a made 4th and 4 from the ND 38. The defense got an SDI, again w/ the help of an Irish personal foul for piling on, and started their next drive on their own 39 w/ a little over 8 and 1/2 to go. They started the drive w/ P. J. Walker giving ND a taste of their own medicine as he kept it for a 21 yd gain, but 7 plays later after a drop by Thomas that may have led to a 1st down, Jones gave Temple their 2nd lead of the night 20-17 w/ 4:45 left in the 4th qtr.
As superior teams do, ND came right back, most of it on an apparent blown assignment leading to a 45 yd pass to Alize Jones, and the drive ended w/ a TD pass to Roman Catholic product Will Fuller to put them back into the lead 24-20.
On the ensuing possession a Keivarae Russell int. of Walker w/ 1:08 left, put an end to the Temple Owls upset bid, and their perfect season, as the clock hit 0:00 w/ the score Notre Dame 24 – Temple Owls 20.
This Temple team has nothing to be ashamed of as they played their hardest and gave a top 10 team all they could handle. FWIW, they should keep their top 25 ranking, but that matters little to them now as they need to get refocused on the AAC schedule ahead of them and keeping the break-out season going strong.
P. J. Anderson finished the game 13/30 188 yds, 1 td, and the one int. He also ran 6 times for 38 yds. Jahad Thomas rushed for 93 yds on 21 carries and one td. Ventrell Bryant was the leading receiver w/ 91 yds on 6 catches.
The Temple D allowed their 1st opening TD drive of the season. On the flip side their eight-play, 94-yard TD drive in the 2nd was their longest of the season.
W/ his 10th tackle of the night (he had 8 solo and 5 assisted) Tyler Matakevich, the NCAA Active tackle leader, passed Lance Johnstone (’92-’95) for 2nd place on the Temple all time list.
Temple returns to American Athletic Conference play on Friday in Dallas against SMU (1-7, 0-3).