When the Temple University football team traveled to South Bend for a matchup with nationally-ranked Notre Dame to start the 2013 season, the Owls were concerned about the disruptive ability of Fighting Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix.
The Owls’ sophomore center Kyle Friend ended up matched up on Nix – now a defensive tackle with the New York Giants – most frequently and played a big role in holding Nix to one assisted tackle in Irish’s 28-6 victory.
The game stamped Friend as one of the country’s best offensive lineman and now two years later he is the anchor of the undefeated 21st-ranked Owls as they prepare to welcome No. 9 Notre Dame to Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.
“I was a young guy and it gave me a little bit of confidence going into sophomore year, so it was a pretty good game,” said Friend.
Friend admitted with the Fighting Irish coming in, he has perspective of how far the program has come since that game – the first as head coach for Matt Rhule. Many of the players were freshmen and sophomores in that game and are now juniors and seniors.
After Temple played well in that game, the rest of the season didn’t go well as it finished 2-10. Last year, the Owls improved to 6-6 and they are now 7-0 this season.
“When you look at the team we played with sophomore year and the team we play we play with now, it’s a pretty drastic change,” said Friend. “Credit to the coaches, credit to the seniors here right now. They’ve done a great job with this program. We definitely deserve every right to be in this game and compete to win. “
Friend said he knew the Owls would be a good team down the road but had no idea the type of work it would take to get there.
“We knew were going to be a good team, but it would take a lot of work, a lot of offseason work,” said Friend. “You could tell with the younger guys, when we were juniors and seniors it would be a special team.
“But from a standpoint of how we practiced then to how we practice now, it’s a drastic change. It shows in the way we go about doing things and how much more mature we are as a team. We didn’t even realize how much work it would take. You think you’re always working hard, but you don’t understand you can do a lot better and the coaches did a great job pushing us past that line.”
Friend knows for the Owls to win on Saturday he and the offensive line will need to be successful.
“It will be a physical battle, we have to get our hands on these guys and do our job and do it well,” said Friend. “We’re excited.”