SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame will tackle the unknown when the No. 14 Irish open the season against Temple at 3:30 p.m. today in Notre Dame Stadium.
The Owls went through a makeover after going 4-7 last season as Steve Addazio left to take over at Boston College and former Temple assistant coach Matt Rhule returned from a stint with the New York Giants to take over the team.
Rhule made plenty of changes, naming junior Connor Reilly, who has never played, the starting quarterback; moving quarterback Chris Coyer to H-back; putting last year’s top receiver, Jalen Fitzpatrick, on the outside instead of in the slot; and shifting tight ends Cody Booth (offensive tackle) and Romond Deloatch (defensive end) to new positions.
We don’t know exactly what we’re going to see, Irish coach Brian Kelly said. We think we do, but I think this is one of those openers where we’re going to have to kind of make some adjustments along the way.
Along with shifting players, Rhule wants to revive a passing game that accounted for only 120.8 yards per game, while the Owls averaged 201.2 rushing yards.
We are just such a completely different offense from last year, I can’t really compare it, Rhule said during his Tuesday news conference. It’s apples and oranges, what we are asking them to do.
Notre Dame safety Austin Collinsworth, who will make his first career start today, said the defense has been able to piece together an idea of what it will see today.
It is difficult, but you have to take all the film you have available to you to kind of paint a picture of what they have given, Collinsworth said. It is different. It is a little bit difficult. Come Saturday, they could run anything.
Kelly said the best grasp he has on Temple is what to expect on defense.
The Owls brought in former Eastern Michigan defensive coordinator Phil Snow to improve a unit that gave up 437.2 yards and 31.2 points per game.
Eastern Michigan emphasized getting after the quarterback under Snow as the Eagles had 23 sacks among their 69 tackles for loss.
I found myself talking in terms of what Eastern Michigan was doing, and clearly obviously that’s not their talent pool, Kelly said. They’ve got Temple players. So there’s that unknown.
The one thing Kelly is certain of is Temple will be a strong test, and the Irish will have to be on top of their game today.
(The Owls) showed that they can compete with anybody in the Big East last year, and you know that last year we had to take Pittsburgh into overtime last year, so we’re going to have to play well against a team that’s coming into Notre Dame Stadium wanting to show very well for their first-year head coach, Kelly said. We need to play a clean opener against a team that obviously is coming into Notre Dame Stadium and has nothing to lose, and our players understand that going into it.