PHILADELPHIA – Timely mistakes by the visitors and a stingy red zone defense displayed by their underrated hosts nearly leveled Notre Dame’s season-long playoff pursuit in the City of Brotherly Love.
Then DeShone Kizer and Philadelphia native Will Fuller struck again.
Trailing 20-17 with just under three minutes remaining, Kizer found Fuller for a 17-yard touchdown to cap off a six-play, 75-yard drive that recaptured a lead relinquished barely a minute prior. The Irish held on from there, winning 24-20 to move to 7-1 on the season.
“He got the game ball,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly of Kizer. “Leading a drive, on the road again as a freshman. The throw in the corner of the end zone on Cover 2 was outstanding. Great poise, great leadership. He deserved the game ball.”
Kizer threw a pair of interceptions at the shadow of the Owls’ goal line in the first half but offset those errors with his game-winning toss and a pair of touchdown runs, including a 79-yard sprint on 3rd-and-1 that gave the Irish a 14-10 lead midway through the second quarter.
“I knew those were going to put us into a dogfight in the second half,” said Kelly of two empty red zone forays.
Temple had previously pulled ahead with a touchdown pass from P.J. Walker to Brandon Shippen for a 10-7 advantage. That lead, like their brief 20-17 edge following an Austin Jones field goal at the game’s 3:48 mark, was short lived.
Temple tied the score at 17 midway through the final quarter with a 4th-and-1 touchdown run by Jahad Thomas. The Owls were aided on their 14-play, 78-yard drive by a pair of fourth down conversions and a third-down targeting penalty against Irish senior safety Elijah Shumate – the latter occurring in the end zone to set up the tying score.
In addition to Temple’s two red zone picks was a third Owls defensive effort that kept the Irish short of the goal line, holding on 1st-and-Goal from their own three yard line to force a Justin Yoon field goal that kept the margin at one score, 17-10 midway through the third quarter.
“The first one was an unacceptable mistake on DeShone’s part, he knows that,” said Kelly. “The second one, he was trying to fit in a skinny post and we felt like Will needed to come back to the football and make a play on it. He let it get into his body.”
Senior running back C.J. Prosise was held to 25 rushing yards on 14 carries. Half of his rushes resulted in loss or gains of 2 yards or less as did a total of 12 Irish snaps. Notre Dame’s defense likewise won the battle of scrimmage, dropping Owls runners for loss or gains of two yards or less a whopping 22 occasions.
“We felt like it was going to be difficult (to run),” said Kelly. “The box was crowded in there. A lot of movement.”
Both team’s initial touchdown’s were aided by third-down pass interference calls against the defense. The team’s combined for 14 penalties resulting in 160 yards with nine first downs gained as a result of yellow flags.
“Collectively there’s a demeanor on this football team that they’re not going to give in. Temple has that too,” said Kelly. “A no-quit attitude that they’re just going to keep playing. Collectively (Notre Dame) has that in addition to individual playmakers.”
Notre Dame outgained Temple 467 to 295 on the evening.