How does Notre Dame feel about Temple?
“My perception is they're excited Temple is really good. At the beginning of the season Temple was one of those games on the calendar that was part of a lull after USC with Stanford still a month away. With Temple ranked and and it being a night game, they're thrilled people will be watching. This isn’t a game to just go out and play. It's potentially a chance to beat a ranked team. Temple came in a few years ago, and Notre Dame was fairly impressed. They thought Temple should be pretty good, and they struggled the rest of the year. But the impression was Matt Rhule had his stuff together. He wasn’t a coach that was over-matched. His confidence felt authentic. I think people thought Temple would develop they way they have. Notre Dame is excited for this game."
There's been a lot of turnover at the quarterback position. Everett Golson left, Malik Zaire got injured. Now they have (redshirt freshman) DeShone Kizer. How has that situation developed?
It's been a surprise in different ways. Kizer has shown really impressive maturity. He has an air about him where you think he's almost 30, instead of 20. He gives you that old vibe. Athletically he's different than Zaire, he's not as big as a threat. But he's a polished passer, consistent passer. It's highlighted something about (coach Brian) Kelly. He has a bizarre record of 18-2 when he's starting a freshman or redshirt freshman at quarterback. The only two losses were at Clemson this year and Alabama in the national championship game. He's won every other time in that scenario, which is strange because it is a sophisticated offense. But it also tells you it's not about the quarterback. It's much more about the offensive line and running game and that's nmade it a healthy situation.
It looks like New Jersey native and true freshman Brandon Wimbush is the backup?
"Yes. They wanted to redshirt him, but when Zaire broke his ankle Kelly decided they can’t afford to redshirt him. They couldn't have Wimbush’s first action be at Clemson in a monsoon. He's only played against Massachusetts, but they say they want to get him into games more. Will that be this Saturday? I don't know."
With Prosise at running back and Fuller at wideout, is it a team that can hurt you in a number of ways.
"It's as efficient and explosive an offense as Brian Kelly has had had here by a wide margin. You look the yards per play from 2014 to 2015 it's up from 6.1 to 7.3 yards per play. Prosise is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, and they haven't had anything close to that. Will Fuller is easily the most explosive receiver Kelly has had. They have good speed and can hit a home run at any point.
They've given up over 20 points per game every week but one. Are there concerns on defense?
"It’s a weird group. I don't know why but teams hit a lot of trick plays on them. It's a real issue. It happens virtually every game. They're feast or famine. They're top 10 in the country in three and outs. But if they give up a touchdown, a lot of times they'll give it up again on the next drive. They have trouble stopping negative momentum. Their safety play is really suspect, but the front seven and corners are really good."
They've been 8-5, 9-4 the last two years. I imagine that doesn't cut it in South Bend. How much pressure was there to get back to that Top 10 level and at least be in the mix to play for the national title?
"There was a lot of frustration. Two years ago the narrative was wait till next year and then it didn't happen. This year there was some excitement, when they got (cornerback Keivare Russell back) but then Malik Zaire went down and now they're down six starters for the season. You look at the injuries, a lot of people thought the season could get away from them but it hasn’t happened. Even with the loss at Clemson, they're still in the mix for the playoffs. I don’t think they'll make it but if they go 10-2, lose to Clemson and Stanford I think most people would consider that a good year."
What does this game come down to?
"Notre Dame’s offensive line. I really like that Temple defense a lot, but they won’t have seen an O-line like Notre Dame. Whoever wins the line of scrimmage will control the game, and I don’t think Temple has enough offense to keep up. If Notre Dame's O-line plays as well as they can, they'll be good for 28-30 points and I don't know if Temple can score that much. If Notre Dame wins the matchup between their O-line vs. Temple's front seven, they'll win by 10 points."
What is Notre Dame's biggest concern?
"Safety play is a real issue for Notre Dame. Also they are not good in true road environments. They're 1-6 in their last seven true road games and the only win they struggled against a bad Virginia team. They've not had a great ability to start fast on the road. It's kind of a crazy stat."
How did they use their bye week?
"They took extra time to get healthy. This year it coincided with fall break, so the players were off from school. So Kelly gave them off Tuesday to Saturday. They were banged up enough they felt like they were better off giving these guys a break."
9 questions with irishillustrated.com
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