10 Things We Learned About the Irish's Win Against Temple
College football coaches have often said that the most significant improvements a team can make arrive between the first and second games of the season.
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are no exception, as their 28-6 victory against Temple provided a plethora of things here and there to be tweaked and fixed.
Head coach Brian Kelly's offense got off to a quick start, reaching the end zone twice within the first four minutes of the game. However, sluggish and inconsistent play ensued on both sides of the ball following that energetic beginning to the game.
Much was left to be desired, which I'll discuss in the following slides.
How Good Is Tommy Rees, Really?
Bleacher Report's Michael Felder warns Irish fans not to get too excited about Tommy Rees' dominant weak 1 performance.
TJ Jones Is Notre Dame's Undeniable No. 1 Receiver
Entering the 2013 season, there was some worry about playing without former stars Tyler Eifert and Michael Floyd, two of the most lethal pass-catching threats in school history.
Who would claim that No. 1 receiving label wasn't clear until Kelly pronounced that he believed Jones would be a first-round draft pick next spring.
The 5'11", 195-pound receiver got off to an excellent start in bringing Kelly's words to fruition, reeling in six receptions for 138 yards, including a 51-yarder from quarterback Tommy Rees.
George Atkinson III Didn't Look the Part of a No. 1 Running Back
Throughout fall camp, media members asked time and again whether Atkinson III was indeed Notre Dame's No. 1 running back.
Time and again, Kelly asserted the notion that the 6'1", 220-pound Stockton, Calif. native would take on the role of the Irish's lead back.
Atkinson III didn't do himself any favors in keeping that job, as he finished the day with a pedestrian 34 yards on eight carries. While those figures are partly the result of Kelly's desire to get as many backs as many carries as he could, Atkinson III continued to struggle with low pad level and running north and south.
Too often, Atkinson III wanted to bounce outside in the hopes of hitting the home run.
Tommy Rees Got off to a Great Start
In the absence of former starting quarterback Everett Golson, fans have been left to complain about Rees being the Irish's starter once again.
Those doubters were quiet this afternoon, as Rees completed 16 of 23 passing attempts for a career-high 346 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over.
Sure, Rees missed a few throws, but all the coaching staff is asking of him is to be an efficient game manager.
Now, I'm not buying stock in Rees quite yet.
A solid outing at Michigan next week will allow fans to buy in.
The First Half Was a Defensive Anomaly
While the first half did not go as expected—particularly on the defensive side of the ball—it was due in large part to the coaching staff not knowing exactly what to expect from Temple.
The Owls are under the direction of first-year head coach Matt Rhule, thus not allowing any previous game film to study.
After making halftime adjustments, the Irish defense allowed just 131 yards in the second half, with 42 of those arriving with Notre Dame's second-team defense on the field.
Notre Dame's Special Teams Are Atrocious
After a 2012 season in which Notre Dame struggled mightily on special teams, Kelly vowed that an improved product would be on the field during the 2013 season.
That certainly wasn't the case, as the Irish were once again atrocious on special teams.
Kyle Brindza added punting duties to his list of responsibilities, but he was awful in his first game as a punter; he booted two punts into the end zone that easily could have pinned Temple inside its own 10-yard line.
To make matters worse, both Brindza and Nick Tausch missed one field goal a piece.
Tarean Folston Will Not Redshirt
With such a deep stable of running backs, it was thought that true freshman Tarean Folston, a former 4-star recruit, per 247 Sports, would possibly redshirt the 2013 season.
Well, that possibility flew out of the window, as Folston entered the game late in the fourth quarter, accumulating 14 rushing yards on five carries, as well as nine receiving yards on one reception.
The Offensive Line Was Outstanding
Perhaps the most underrated unit among the Notre Dame roster is the Irish offensive line.
Led by senior left tackle Zack Martin, the monsters up front paved the way for a running game that amassed 188 yards, good for an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
Nick Martin had an excellent performance in his first career start, filling the shoes left behind by former center Braxston Cave.
And, most importantly, the line allowed just one sack.
Freshmen Will Get Plenty of Action This Season
With its best recruiting class of the past decade suiting up for the first time in its collective career, many wondered exactly how many of the heralded freshmen would play Saturday afternoon.
Those freshmen included receivers Corey Robinson, Will Fuller and James Onwualu; running backs Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston; offensive lineman Steve Elmer; defensive back Cole Luke and linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Amir Carlisle May Be the Irish's Most Explosive Playmaker
After transferring from USC and winning a petition to the NCAA to gain immediate eligibility last season, Carlisle suffered an ankle injury that held him out for the entire 2012 season.
His road to redemption began Saturday, with the 5'10", 190-pound back leading the Irish in rushing with 68 yards on seven carries. Carlisle also hauled in two receptions for five yards.
The Santa Clara, Calif. native's ability as a hybrid running back—similar to former Irish running back Theo Riddick—allows Carlisle the ability make plays all over the field.
Whether he stays healthy is the most crucial element for his season, though.
This Team Has a Lot of Room for Improvement
The Irish's 28-6 victory against Temple was, by all accounts, unsatisfying.
Kelly and Co. displayed stretches of inconsistency and poor play, most notably the nine penalties for 63 yards on the afternoon.
While no turnovers were committed, the sluggish play and horrid special teams were enough to be cause for concern as the Irish head to Michigan Stadium to play a Michigan team that destroyed Central Michigan, 59-9.
Kelly did allude to "rust" being a factor during his halftime interview with NBC's Alex Flanagan, so the hope would be for Notre Dame to come out next week firing on all cylinders.