Offensive MVP: Tommy ReesThe senior made his first opening day start memorable, throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns while completing 16 of 23 passes, more than 21 yards per completion. Though Rees hit for a career-high yardage total, he remains his own toughest critic.
"It starts with me," Rees said. "There were a couple throws I want back and some opportunities we didn't take advantage of. But I'm happy with the way we came out and played and continued to be persistent, with that big touchdown to Troy (Niklas) and then coming out in the second half and going down and scoring. I'm proud of the way the guys fought through some of those stalling drives."
Rees hit for touchdowns of 32, 32, and 66 yards, the latter the longest of his 37 career scoring tosses.
Offensive Game Balls: Senior captain T.J. Jones notched a career-best 138 receiving yards on six catches. Jones' turned a quick bubble screen into a 51-yard scamper down the left sideline on the offense's second series. He connected with Rees for a 26-yard slant two series later and added another bubble screen, this one for 17 yards and to the right, while later securing a 20-yard stop-fade from Rees as well.
Junior DaVaris Daniels scored the first two touchdowns of his Irish career, collecting a 32-yard post from Rees on the opening possession, then locking in another 32-yarder, this time on a post-corner, to give the Irish a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Daniels left the game during the second quarter with a groin injury, though Kelly noted his receiver could have returned if duty called.
Sophomore speedster Chris Brown played his best game, catching three balls for 57 yards including a leaping 33-yard go route to convert on 3rd and 7 in the third quarter. Brown's catch set up a score by junior running back George Atkinson, who struggled to just 34 yards on eight carries.
Picking up Atkinson's backfield slack was junior Amir Carlisle. The former USC Trojans made his Irish debut with a 45-yard gain over the left side on his first career in the blue and gold. He led Notre Dame with 68 net yards on just seven carries. The duo's classmate. Cam McDaniel, churned out 65 carries on 12 rushes, the bulk of which occurred in the second half.
Junior tight end Troy Niklas caught just one pass, the aforementioned 66-yard touchdown on a seam route to end the first half, but his head coach lauded the massive target for his efforts where it matters most. "He's a big-body guy. He's got to continue to work on separation, but what he did today on some quick bubble throws, I mean, he man-handled some guys on the perimeter. He was an outstanding blocker for us today."
Defensive MVP: Prince ShemboThe official statistics show the lone quarterback sack goes to Stephon Tuitt, but it was Shembo that provided consistent edge pressure when needed, recording a career-best five quarterback hurries, the second-highest total by a player in the Kelly era. (Freshman Aaron Lynch had six vs. Michigan State in 2011.)
"Prince is a guy that can go all day," said Kelly of his senior linebacker. "He's a great, conditioned athlete and he's an important player. He just doesn't like coming off the field. He an do so many things for us. He's a guy that we feel like can play every play."
Shembo finished with four tackles, three of them at or within a yard of scrimmage.
Defensive Game Balls: Tuitt added two quarterback hurries to his second-half sack of Temple quarterback Connor Reilly, a take down that helped force the driving Owls into a (missed) field goal.
Though not of game ball quality, Notre Dame's inside linebacker trio of Dan Fox (10), Carlo Calabrese (9), and Jarrett Grace (7) combined for 26 stops with one for loss (Fox) and a fumble recovery (Calabrese). The trio struggled early but came together as the Irish defense stiffened in the second stanza, allowing just one big play (22-yard pass).
"First half spotty, second half firm, much better," said Kelly of the three-man rotation. "I thought that the second half, we fitted the plays a lot better. One of the hallmarks of our defense, no easy runs on the perimeter. We had one easy run on the perimeter and that's very unusual to happen in the first half. We had one, then none in the second half."
Special Teams MVP: Punter Kyle Brindza In his collegiate punting debut, Brindza hit five boots for 206 yards (41.2 per punt) with two touchbacks and two downed inside the 20-yard line. (Notre Dame's staff looks for an 8-1 I-20 to touchback ratio for the season.)
In addition to a 47-yard long, Brindza connected on kicks of 37 (touchback), 44, 43, and 35 yards, the latter resulting in a fumble recovered by the Irish.
Just the Facts- The Irish defense has now allowed two touchdowns or fewer in 26 of its last 32 contests…
- Notre Dame held nine of its 13 opponents last fall to 300 total yards or less. Temple managed 362, good for third-best behind Alabama and Oklahoma over the last 14 contests.
- Over its last 27 games, the Irish defense has yielded a total of 40 third quarter points….
- The Irish improved to 17-0 when throwing fewer than 30 passes in the 40-game Kelly era...
- Notre Dame is 44-2 since the beginning of the 2005 season when it out-rushes its opponent.
- The Irish have won 21 of their last 25 games played…
- Notre Dame had 16 players make their debuts Saturday including 10 freshmen: Jaylon Smith, Max Redfield, Will Fuller, James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Corey Robinson, Issac Rochell, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, and Devin Butler. Smith and Robinson both starter.
- T.J. Jones led the offense in pass targets (8). DaVaris Daniels was targeted for 5, Chris Brown 3 (all completed) and both Amir Carlisle and Will Fuller 2. Troy Niklas, C.J. Prosise, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, George Atkinson, and Corey Robinson saw one pass come their way apiece.
- Niklas' 66-yard touchdown catch is just nine yards short of his season receiving total, 75, from 2012.
- For the sixth time in the last seven home games, Notre Dame committed a pre-snap penalty, a turnover or a personal foul on its opening drive. Saturday's infraction was a pre-snap substitution foul on T.J. Jones who noted later he had a bit of a uniform malfunction with a piece of his helmet falling off.
- Notre Dame's 543 yards of total offense was the third-highest total of the 40-game Kelly era and sixth game in excess of 500.