NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After a season of coming off the bench, Tommy Rees had a career day to help Notre Dame roll to a 28-6 season-opening victory over Temple Saturday afternoon. Rees was mostly a spectator while Everett Golson saw the bulk of the action in Notre Dame's 12-1 2012 season, but he passed for a career-high 346 yards and three touchdown passes to open 2013 with Golson in exile due to academic reasons.
It didn't take long for the Irish to get the scoring started. A five yard penalty for too many men in the huddle made it 1st and 10 at the ND 18, but Amir Carlisle, on his first carry in a Notre Dame uniform, bolted to his left for a gain of 45 yards to the Temple 37. Two plays later, Tommy Rees hit DaVaris Daniels on a deep post for a 32-yard score to make it 7-0 just 1:26 into the game.
The Irish needed just three plays on their second drive as well. The possession started with a screen pass to T.J. Jones, who bolted down the left sideline for a 51-yard gain. Rees hit Daniels with another 32-yard strike, this one to the front left corner of the end zone, to make it 14-0. A perfectly executed play-action pass drew Temple's defense toward the line and Rees' pass hit Daniels in stride.
Temple's first real drive began at its own 20 after Kyle Brindza's punt from the Owl 47 bounced into the end zone. The Owls drove to the Irish 15 before Jim Cooper's 32-yard field goal attempt missed wide right. Reserve defenders like Jarrett Grace, Elijah Shumate, Kona Schwenke and freshman Isaac Rochell were in for the Irish during the drive.
After a Brindza punt from the Temple 37 again bounced into the end zone, Temple again drove deep into Irish territory, with the Irish again mixing and matching defensive players. The drive stalled at the 26 before Cooper missed wide left on a 43-yard field goal try.
Notre Dame drove to the Owl 22 after starting at its own 26 on its next possession. Cam McDaniel ran for 18 yards on the second play of the drive, which was followed by a 17-yard completion to Jones. Nick Tausch would eventually miss on a 39-yard field goal try. The low line drive never had a chance to get to the uprights.
The Owls were able to crack the scoreboard on their next drive. An up-tempo pace kept the Irish on their heels on the drive, which looked like it was going to end at the 10 after an incompletion by Connor Reilly. Shumate was called for pass interference in the end zone though, giving Temple a 1st and goal at the two. Kenny Harper scored two plays later, but Jarron Jones blocked Cooper's extra point and the Irish led 14-6 after the nine-play,78-yard touchdown drive.
With just 54 seconds left in the first half, the Irish did not try to just run out the clock. Rees dropped back and hit Troy Niklas over the middle. The 270-pound tight end bounced off two would be tacklers and raced to the end zone for a 66-yard score. It was by far Niklas' longest career catch to give Notre Dame a 21-6 halftime lead. It also marked the longest pass of Rees' career. His previous long was a 56-yarder against Navy in 2011.
Jalen Fitzpatrick returned the second half kickoff 39 yards to give the Owls the ball at their own 41 to begin the game's second 30 minutes. Temple used an array of short, quick passes to move to the Irish six before the drive ended with an incompletion on 4th and goal. Fitzpatrick dropped a ball at the goal line two plays earlier. Temple was 1-for-3 in the red zone at that point.
It took Notre Dame just seven plays to cover 94 yards for the fourth Irish touchdown of the day. The big play came on a 33-yard completion to Chris Brown. It was the sophomore's third catch of the day; eclipsing the two catches he had all of his freshman year. Cam McDaniel ran 16 yards on the next play and then George Atkinson finished the drive with a two-yard run to make it 28-6 with 5:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Rees topped 300 yards passing for the third time in his career with his 346 yard day. He completed 16 of his 33 passes. The last time he eclipsed 300 was his 315-yard day against Michigan in 2011. He also topped 300 yards in 2010 in a loss to Tulsa.
Jones led the Irish with 138 yards on six receptions - an average of 23 yards-per-catch. It's the first time in the senior's career that he has topped 100 yards. Carlisle led the way with 68 rushing yards on seven carries. Cam McDaniel added 65 yards on 12 totes.
Temple quarterback Connor Reilly, who was making his first career start, was 23-of-46 for 228 yards. He also led the Owls with 65 yards on 12 carries.
Notre Dame outgained Temple 543-362 in total offense. The Fighting Irish ran for 188 yards to Temple's 134. The only turnover of the game came when Temple fumbled a punt by Brindza in the game's waning moments.