Temple is history and now it's on to the one that really counts - Michigan. Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame football team have turned the page from Saturday's 28-6 season-opening win over the Owls. How quickly did the coach who just earned his 200th career victory turn it? The first question during his Sunday media teleconference was about the pending end of the series with the Wolverines.
"I really haven't seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries," said when asked about the potential impact when Michigan is off the schedule in a couple years. "I've seen it as one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played."
"I've always felt the Notre Dame - Michigan game was a big regional game," he continued. "But I think in the Notre Dame history books this game has played itself, but obviously there (have) been some years where it hasn't been played for a number of years."
Notre Dame and Michigan first met in 1887, but they played just nine times between then and 1909. They didn't meet again until a two-year renewal in 1942 and '43, but a drought of 35 years passed before they met again in 1978. The most recent hiatus in the series came in 2000 and 2001. The two have met every year since 2002 though, with Michigan holding a 6-5 advantage in wins since then.
The Michigan rivalry is set to end after the 2014 season due to Notre Dame's contractual agreement to play five ACC teams a season and Notre Dame's desire to keep its series intact with USC, Stanford and Navy. Kelly says he doesn't expect any time off to affect the "great rivalry" between the two geographically similar programs.
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke was among several public figures to fire verbal volleys at Notre Dame over the off season. Hoke said Notre Dame was "chickening out of" the series during an event this past May, but Kelly was not biting on verbal volleys leading up to next Saturday's game in Ann Arbor.
"We're a team that a lot of people want to play," Kelly said when asked about the chicken comment. "Including Michigan, obviously, or Brady wouldn't comment in that regard. We're trying to do the best we can with maintaining the independent status and fulfilling the obligations we have with the ACC. We'd like to play everybody. Unfortunately we can't and there (will be) a little bit of a hiatus with this game."
Kelly reiterated on Sunday that wide receiver DaVaris Daniels has a "slight" groin injury. Kelly called it a "grade one" variety. Daniels had three receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns Saturday before leaving the game with the injury. He will receive treatment on Sunday and is expected to play against Michigan.
Kelly said a handful of other players had only typical bumps and bruises after Saturday's season-opening win.
Following the Freshmen
Ten freshmen saw action in Saturday's game and an 11th, offensive lineman Steve Elmer, almost got in. Elmer actually ran on the field when left guard Chris Watt came off for a helmet adjustment, but a timeout was eventually called and Watt went back in without Elmer ever seeing playing time.
Cole Luke, who is working as Notre Dame's nickel back, is one freshman Kelly was impressed with Saturday, but the freshman who drew the most praise is outside linebacker Jaylon Smith.
"He's going to benefit the most, because of the amount of snaps he took, from week one to week two," Kelly said of Smith. "And he's got a great skill set."
Smith started at drop linebacker and finished with one tackle, which came on Temple's first offensive play of the game. Wide receiver Corey Robinson was the only other freshman to start. The other seven freshmen who saw the field were Max Redfield, Will Fuller, James Onwualu, Isaac Rochell, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and Devin Butler (C.J. Prosise also debuted. He is a freshman in eligibility, but was at Notre Dame in 2012).
Most of the freshmen who played Saturday were expected to see action against Temple, but the one surprise name on the list was Fuller - a wide receiver from Philadelphia.
"He's got really top end speed," Kelly said of Fuller. "He's as fast as the guys that we've got on the offensive side of the ball. He can run with the Chris Browns and he can run with DaVaris Daniels. He's got that kind of top end speed. He's a little bit slight in terms of his build (5'11, 171 pounds). We (have to) continue to work on getting him stronger."
Folston, a running back, was the only freshman to have a reception Saturday (one for nine yards). He also ran for 14 yards on five carries, while Bryant had 12 yards on two carries.
Fellow freshman receiver Torii Hunter, Jr. continues to rehab after breaking his leg prior to arriving at Notre Dame. He was seen jogging and running during training camp earlier this month. Due to the team's depth at receiver, Kelly says Hunter would have to do "incredible" things this year to be able to see game time.
Freshman quarterback Malik Zaire was inactive for this weekend's game due to a bout with mono. Kelly says Zaire will have blood work done Tuesday to determine his status.
Notre Dame's special teams probably left the most to be desired Saturday against the Owls. Nick Tausch, who attempted just one field goal last year, missed a 39-yard attempt in the second quarter that Kelly says was "just a bad kick". Kyle Brindza attempted the only other field goals, a 44-yard try, in the fourth quarter that he pulled. Both kicks were from the left hash mark.
"We can't have a technically bad kick, which we had with Nick," said Kelly. "We'll make a decision on where we go with that."
"We've got a lot going on with Kyle," Kelly continued. "I still think that Nick and Alex (Wulfeck) can still assist in all the jobs that Kyle is asked to do."
Brindza is in his first season handling punting duties after doing kickoffs and place kicks last season. He was 28-of-29 on extra points and hit 23-of-31 field goals (74%) in 2012. Tausch, whom Kelly says helped Brindza lighten the load with the duties during training camp, has not been a full-time field goal kicker since hitting 14-of-17 attempts (82%) in 2009. Kelly plans to continually re-evaluate the situation.