At one point this evening, I told our fellow OFDers that the draft of this post was just the F-word extended for 15 column inches. I swung back and forth on that a few more times the rest of the way. Ultimately, DeShone Kizer pulled another rabbit out of the hat, and Notre Dame was able to win.
A quick moment to compliment Temple. I can't say I came away from this game thinking Temple was particularly great (although Tyler Matakevitch is terrific), but what they are is gutsy and well-coached. Matt Rhule is terrific and a Power 5 team would do well to pluck him from Philly.
Anyway, with the game now in the rear-view mirror, let's go over a few of, in my view, the key moments.
ND doesn't do anything up 7-0
ND got the ball back midway through the 1st quarter after a very nice sequence in which they went down the field on a long opening TD drive, then stopped Temple quickly. It certainly felt like the Irish were about to take over the game.
Unfortunately, they didn't do much of anything on the drive and punted the ball back to Temple. The Owls went down and kicked a field goal, and it was a game. Who knows if things might have changed had the Irish scored.
Kizer's TD run
Temple went ahead 10-7 after DeShone Kizer threw a foolish interception in the red zone, probably the first objectively poor and rushed throw he's made (or certainly the first he's paid for), followed by an Owls' TD drive. ND faced a 3rd and 1, a surprisingly tough spot considering how the Owls were bottling up C.J. Prosise.
But Kizer, cool as a cucumber the rest of the night outside that first pick, ran a flawless zone read, Temple overloaded on Prosise, and Kizer busted loose for a 79-yard TD run, the longest ever by an Irish QB actually playing QB (Blair Kiel went 80 on a fake punt once, said the broadcast, but it was a fake punt and he was the punter). It was a massive play that swung the momentum temporarily back to ND's side.
The 2nd pick
ND got to the red zone again after forcing a Temple punt and looked to be in prime position to go up 21-10, or at least 17-10, going into the break. But Kizer threw a bad-luck pick - a decent throw to Will Fuller was tipped by Temple and picked by Matakevitch - and that momentum swing was snuffed.
Overall, ND managed 17 points on 5 red-zone trips. Not the greatest.
That stupid OPI call
What is it with this school and OPI? First there was Florida State last year, technically correct if not easy to swallow. Then UVA in September, when the Cavs executed a blatant pick on one of their TDs that wasn't called. Then this call.
ND was closing in on scoring range and had stopped Temple on 3 straight drives - not counting the one that ended at halftime - when Nic Weishar was flagged for OPI for...something. Replay showed he did indeed lower his shoulder and collide with a defender, but the contact was A) unavoidable - someone was going to hit someone there, it was only a question of how, and B) irrelevant to the play, which was an overthrown pass nowhere near Weishar or his defender.
The penalty quickly submarined a drive, along with a personal foul on Nick Martin two plays later that set up a 2nd and 33. Temple would score the tying TD after regaining possession.
Defense steps up late
Tied at 17 with six minutes to go, Temple took the ball into the red zone, and it looked like doom for the Irish. But on a 3rd and 2, ND was able to force a high throw on a swing pass that was dropped and Temple settled for the FG (not that going for it there would necessarily have been smart, but I would've been terrified had the Owls chosen to do so).
After ND's winning drive (more on that in a sec), KeiVarae Russell stepped up for the 2nd game in a row and made a massive interception on a 3rd and 17. He hadn't had the greatest game to that point, but made the biggest play when it mattered most.
That last drive was something. DeShone Kizer is really, really good at playing quarterback. We're lucky to have him.
ND survived. It was not pretty, for the second game in a row. But as Kelly said, this is March Madness. Just gotta win now and hope for some luck.