Snap Judgments: ND vs. Temple

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Eight games into the season, the Irish still have a problem in the power running game, which led to two interceptions in the red zone.

• Red-zone issues continue to haunt the Irish with back-to-back games of two touchdowns in five red-zone appearances, only this time, it was an uncharacteristic two interceptions by DeShone Kizer for the first two-pick game of his six career starts.

Notre Dame really doesn’t have many options in the red zone. As great as C.J. Prosise has been this year, he simply has not developed into an option in tough-yardage situations. His game is the big play, and when they need a short-yardage conversion, Kizer is the better option because a) he’s more physical and b) the Irish get an extra hat in the box with Kizer the equivalent of running the Wildcat.

The field is constricted in the red zone, so there’s less the Irish can do in the passing game. Will Fuller usually is a pretty good choice, and when Notre Dame absolutely, positively needed a touchdown, it was Kizer to Fuller for the game-winning 17-yarder with 2:09 remaining to give the Irish just their second touchdown over the final 51 minutes of the game.

Credit to Temple in the red zone because they did what they’ve done all season. The Owls came into the weekend fifth in the country in interceptions with 12 and they added two more – one each by Praise Martin-Oguike and Tyler Matakevich, who now has five on the season.

Additionally, Temple came into the game eighth in the nation in limiting red-zone trips from turning into touchdowns. They are now a phenomenal 9-of-25 (36.0 percent).

• The Irish Illustrated staff threw the red flag out there this week when we detailed the defensive prowess of Temple, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest (to a lesser extent) and Boston College, and how that will impact Notre Dame’s scoring over the next month. That’s before Stanford, which is always formidable.

As dynamic as Notre Dame’s offense has been, much of its success has come against some bad defenses, and in the final five regular-season games of ’15, there was little chance of Notre Dame maintaining its 38.3-point scoring average.

It’s down to 36.5 points per game with this 24-point effort – due largely to Notre Dame’s sporadic red-zone offense – but not because of Notre Dame’s inability to move the football. The Irish racked up another 467 yards total offense. But the combination of the red-zone inconsistency and the defenses the Irish are facing will bring Notre Dame’s scoring average back to the rest of the pack.

• It took a special defense to hold Notre Dame to just 168 yards on 31 carries (5.4-yard average). Keep in mind that 79 of those yards came on one DeShone Kizer run, which means the other 30 attempts accounted for just 89 yards, which is a tick below three yards per attempt.

C.J. Prosise, who came into the game with 922 yards and a chance to tie Vegas Ferguson’s mark of reaching 1,000 yards in eight games, managed just 25 yards on 14 carries with a long run of 12 yards. In other words, he averaged exactly one yard per his other 13 carries.

Most will blame that on the offensive line, which is fair up to a point. The fact is Temple loaded the box, and Notre Dame has always struggled running the ball during the Brian Kelly regime when the Irish are out-numbered. Some teams can run it no matter what the disparity in hat-versus-hat. Notre Dame is not one of them.

Those claiming that Prosise is ready to jump to the NFL are a bit premature. He is a long way from becoming a complete back. His skill level may be enough to earn him a fairly nice draft selection and a first contract. But it’s that second contract that is harder to come by, and one Prosise won’t earn unless he drops the pad level and learns how to take advantage of his 220-pound body.

You say Prosise can learn what he needs to know while earning a pro paycheck? There won’t be a second pro contract if he doesn’t perform during the first one. Prosise should ultimately realize that he’s not ready for the NFL.

Quite honestly, most of the credit/blame for Prosise’s sub-par performance belongs to Temple’s defense, which came into this game allowing just 92.1 yards per game, which the Owls would have matched if not for Kizer’s determined 79-yarder in which he simply refused to be caught.

• With two weeks to study Temple, it gave us plenty of time to evaluate the opponent and formulate some opinions heading into the game. Throughout Temple land, the theme of the week was, “I believe.” I joked on a couple of occasions that the phrase should have been “I hope” because Temple fans suddenly were coming out of the woodwork and couldn’t possibly believe they were going to defeat Notre Dame.

On the other hand, Matt Rhule’s players and integral members of the football program truly believed they could pull this upset off, and quite frankly, if you’re the Owls, it would be understandable if you came away from this game believing you deserved to win.

One could point to the yardage disparity – Notre Dame had 467 to Temple’s 295 – and say that the Irish proved they were the superior team. And yet in the biggest game in Temple’s history, the Owls used a pair of red-zone interceptions to keep Notre Dame out of the end zone for a 32:32 stretch after Kizer’s 79-yard touchdown run.

Ultimately, the difference was that Notre Dame’s offense was good enough to score three touchdowns and a field goal while Temple’s just doesn’t have enough weapons in its offensive arsenal to overcome some of the big boys nationally.

Temple is the real deal. The job that Matt Rhule has done in terms of recruiting athletes, getting his team to play disciplined, inspired football, and doing it with defense since the start of the 2014 season proved once again that the Owls are legit.

Add it all up and it’s why Rhule is a viable candidate for numerous jobs that already have opened up this season throughout college football. His days at Temple are numbered. In fact, he’ll likely have his choice of jobs coming up.


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