Captain’s Corner with Allen Pinkett

Temple focused on taking C.J. Prosise out of the equation, which put the onus on quarterback DeShone Kizer and, ultimately, Philadelphia native Will Fuller.

I was really impressed with the resilience of the Notre Dame football team. Notre Dame’s ability to take everybody’s best shot and best punch, I was really impressed with how they showed so much mental toughness when they had an opportunity to quit. With so much at stake, they found a way to muster up one more drive and one more defensive stand to save the game and save the season.

It’s hard to imagine that the Temple game was just DeShone Kizer’s sixth start. The interceptions are something you’re going to have to live with occasionally with a freshman quarterback. But I like the fact he has a short memory and he comes back out and battles. He doesn’t go in the tank.

The game-winning ball he threw to Fuller, I don’t know if the corner thought he had safety help or if the safety thought he could get there in time, or if Fuller just blew past both of them.

Scoring the game-winning touchdown was a dream come true for Fuller. To be able to come home and play in an NFL stadium that he grew up a few blocks from, or three miles from, and make the game-winning play, he’s got to feel good about himself.

Notre Dame is going to have to find ways to run the football down there in the red zone. They’re going to have to find some diversity in their package of running plays and get the ball to C.J. Prosise in different ways.

This game reminded me of Clemson where (Temple) just said straight up, ‘C.J. Prosise is not going to beat us. He is not going to run the football. If you want to beat us, you’re going to have to use somebody else.’ That was most evident on Kizer’s 79-yard touchdown run where they didn’t even try to read that play. They just crashed down on Prosise. Notre Dame is going to have come up with some diversity in their package.

The only issue with throwing the football down there is three things can happen and two of them are bad, so if you want to be able to have some sort of reliance on the running game, it needs to happen even when the opposition knows you want to run it.

Temple has a veteran defensive front and they had fresh legs in there the entire game. They just out-played the offensive line when it came to running it in the red zone or loaded the box and forced them to throw it.

I thought Notre Dame did a good job of putting pressure on (Temple quarterback) P.J. Walker all night long. That was the fastest Notre Dame’s defense has looked for all the years I’ve watched them since I played. I go back to (former defensive coordinator Jon) Tenuta when they were blitzing all the time and not getting anywhere close to the quarterback. Against Temple, I think they rattled that quarterback with different looks, pressures and blitzes. They bent but didn’t break.

I expected more gadget plays from Temple, and the one gadget play that they did run, KeiVarae (Russell) was in position but just got there a half-second late. At least it didn’t go for a touchdown, so I was fine with that.

I hear all the criticism of Joe Schmidt and my response to that is all you’ve got to do is look at their record when he’s in the game and when he’s not in the game. They’ve lost key games without him. Just like the offense looks to the quarterback, the defense has to have a quarterback on defense to get everybody settled in the right position. He’s an inspirational leader and a guy with a high football IQ. It’s like having a coach on the field.

He’s invaluable to that defense because it’s not an easy defense and we can see the difference from a year ago where these guys are flying around and not wasting a lot of time thinking about doing something. Having Joe Schmidt in there is key because he will get to the right spot and the right place. He even looked fast blitzing. He did an excellent job of timing up his blitzes and got some real good hits on the quarterback. He’s just the complete package in terms of brains and brawn that you need at that position.

Notre Dame’s defensive line was impressive. That was one of Romeo Okwara’s best games. Sheldon Day was outstanding. Isaac Rochell was just all over the place. The defensive line played great. Jaylon (Smith) made some great plays and tackles as well.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t give Temple and head coach Matt Rhule credit. To go from 2-10 two years ago to where they are now, they have obviously bought into what he is selling.

Hearing him speak in public, he doesn’t have the command in voice or presence like a lot of coaches. But he gets these guys to play for him. There are a lot of different ways to win football games. You don’t have to have a Vince Lombardi all the time. He’s probably the quintessential players’ coach.

To take that program to where it is in an NFL town, a professional town, is impressive. There are three newspapers in Philadelphia and to make that the lead story in that town isn’t easy. To get an entire city like that behind you, you’ve got to have something good going on.

Temple’s defense is outstanding. (Defensive lineman Matt) Ioannidis is probably their best pro prospect. Coming into that game they had 53 tackles for loss, and 60 percent of those tackles for loss came from that defensive front. (Tyler) Matakevich is such a productive player at linebacker as well.

Looking ahead to next week, Pitt reminds me of Boston College a few years ago where they just sort of have our number. They’ve won two out of the last three against Notre Dame in Pittsburgh.

They’re like a carbon copy of Michigan State with Pat Narduzzi coaching them. Ball control offense, aggressive defense, stay in the game, and then hopefully make a few plays in the fourth quarter to win.

They’re going to be even more dangerous after a loss. If they had maintained first place in the Atlantic Division, they may have come out a little tight. Now, because they lost, it’s going to be a free-for-all. There’s no pressure on them. Last week against North Carolina was rarified air. This game gives them a chance to play for messing up someone else’s season.

The last time Notre Dame played at noon was that game against Pittsburgh in 2011 (a 15-12 win). Jonas Gray had the long run and Tommy Rees completed like 11 in a row.

I worry about the game that starts at noon when you have a routine of playing at 3:30 or 8 o’clock. Hopefully these guys are mature enough to know that it’s a short week with an early start and to get off their feet, get enough rest and sleep, and be wide awake for a 12 o’clock start.

The second reason it’s important for them to be wide-awake? If you want to play in the NFL, that’s the time you’re going to play.


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