NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Saturday could not have gone much better for Brian Kelly. The fourth-year Fighting Irish head coach led Notre Dame to a 28-6 win over Temple Saturday afternoon, the win was the 200th of his career and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick opened Kelly's post-game press conference with the long awaited announcement of Kelly's contract extension with the school.
"We have entered into a new agreement," Swarbrick said after the win over the Owls."That ensures that Brian will continue to provide the sort of leadership which has fundamentally changed this program - restored it (and) given it the foundation it needs for continued success in the future."
Swarbrick would not disclose any details of the new contract, but Kelly, who is the second youngest coach (51 years and 310 days) to reach 200 victories, said later that the deal is for five years - beginning with the current 2013 season.
"We've all decided that by signing this contract we're all in it together," Kelly said.
"By my signature on it, (Notre Dame president) Father (John) Jenkins' signature on it and Jack Swarbrick's signature on it, we've all agreed that the principals within this contract is that we're all in it together," he added.
At least two members of Kelly's Grand Valley State team that gave him his first win were present after the game. ISD's own Sean Mele, a tight end on that team, and quarterback Jack Hall were both there. Hall presented Kelly with the game ball prior to the postgame press conference.
Kelly reached 200 wins in the fifth-fewest amount of games, with just 270 needed to get to the mark.
Freshmen on the Field
Ten freshmen played for Notre Dame in the win over Temple. They were: Max Redfield, William Fuller, James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Corey Robinson (whose father David Robinson was also on hand for the game ball presentation afterward), Isaac Rochell, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, Devin Butler and Jaylon Smith.
Robinson started at receiver and was on the field for the first offensive play of the 2013 season. Smith started at drop linebacker and was credited with a tackle on the first tackle of the season (non special teams) after the Irish were up 7-0.
"He did some pretty good things," Kelly said of Smith. "He played like a freshman. He was a little out of place at times in some instances, but he obviously has great athletic ability and closes very well. It's probably what we expected from him."
Tommy Rees had a career day with 346 passing yards against the Owls. He was 16-of-23 (69%) with three touchdown passes - all in the first half. It marked the third time Rees has had as many TD passes in a half in his career. The last time was in 2011 against Air Force.
"A lot of the questions we had coming in (was) could we push the ball down the field," Kelly said. "I think we answered a lot of those questions right away with his ability to push the ball down the field. I thought his patience was better and it will continue to get better. So, I was pleased with his performance and he knows he can play better."
Rees connected with six different receivers in the game. Four of them had catches of at least 32 yards, with Troy Niklas catching the last of the touchdowns - a 66-yarder - with under a minute to play in the first half that put the Irish up 21-6.
No Doubting Daniels
Junior DaVaris Daniels continues to show his improving skill. Daniels broke free on just the third play of the game to reel in a 32-yard touchdown pass on a post pattern for the first TD of his career.
"I think he's just a lot more experienced," Kelly said of Daniels. "And he and Tommy now have a much better relationship in terms of where to be."
Daniels caught another 32-yard touchdown strike on the third play of Notre Dame's second series to make it 14-0. He finished the game with three receptions for 69 yards, but left the game in the first half with what Kelly says was a "slight groin" injury.
"He could have played," Kelly said while noting there was no need to risk keeping Daniels in due to Notre Dame's depth at receiver. "We wanted to make sure we did not put him in a position where it could have been worse."
T.J. Jones led the Irish with a career-high 136 yards on six receptions. He did not reach the end zone, but it was the first time the senior has ever topped 100 yards.
"I thought it was dynamic," Kelly said of Jones' play. "Dynamic is a word that I would use as a receiver when we're talking about after the catch. He caught the football and then he was dynamic after the catch. That's what we're looking for from him."
Jones was also working as Notre Dame's punt return man for the first time in his career. He wound-up with 23 total yards on three returns with a long of 12.
"I think he's going to be really good at it as he continues to get more live playing time at that position," said Kelly. "I'm pretty excited about watching him back there."
Kelly noted Jones made one bad decision when he didn't field a punt, but he also made a "great" play fielding a ball in traffic - something the Irish have struggled with in the past.
As expected, Kyle Brindza handled punting duties throughout the game. He was solid, with a 41.2 yard average on five punts. He dropped two inside the 20, but two rolled into the end zone for touchbacks while kicking from the Temple 47 and 37 yard lines.
"We'll have to be technically better in our pooch punt situation with Kyle," said Kelly. "I'm confident we'll be able to do that."
Brindza also handled kickoff duties, while Nick Tausch began the game as the field goal kicker. Tausch missed a 39-yard field goal that barely made it over the line in the first quarter. Brindza replaced him and later missed a 44-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Both kicks were going toward the north end zone and both were from the left hash mark.
The Irish displayed the bend but don't break defense that carried them through last season. Temple quarterback Connor Reilly managed 228 passing yards, but most of it was of the short variety. His longest completion of the day was 26 yards.
"I was ok with the dink and dunk that they were going to exhibit on defense," Kelly said. "If they were going to continue to just take stick routes and swings, I was okay in letting that happen. That's how we play defensively."
Temple was just 1-for-3 in red zone scoring chances. Kicker Jim Cooper missed field goals from 32 and 43 yards. The Owls averaged 4.6 yards per carry and a total of 134 yards on the ground and 362 total yards.
"I think that there's a seamless, natural transition on that defensive side of the ball," said Kelly. "We didn't feel like there were communication issues at all on the sideline."
Austin Collinsworth made his first career start at safety next to Matthias Farley. Ishaq Williams saw duty as both a Cat linebacker and defensive end, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese started next to each other at the inside linebacker spots with Jarrett Grace first easing in on passing downs and then seeing more action after the Irish were up 14-0. Ben Councell saw extensive time as well after Smith started at Dog linebacker.
Fox, Calabrese and Grace were one-two-three in tackles with 10, 9 and 7 respectively.