Boy the 2013 expectations escalated quickly! Temple did what they had to do upon finding themselves in the middle of a vicious cockfight – they kept their heads on a swivel. Safe to say we expected Notre Dame and Tommy Rees to ease into the season opener, pound the ball at the overmatched Temple front, and ultimately pull away gradually while the defense dominated a 4-7 team with a new coach, new offensive system, and new quarterback. It was more bang, bang, bang and ND had a 14 point lead with a new "Tommy 4 Heisman" Twitter handle making the rounds. Rees was ready to be the man, Davaris Daniels and his two TDs grabs were the needed deep threat, Amir Carlisle might be as advertised, TJ Jones was looking phenomenal, and the defense was picking up right where it left off in 2012 (against USC). Book your tickets to Pasadena everybody! Then, as the rules dictate, the Irish were forced to play the final 55 minutes & 19 seconds. We began to find answers to the many questions that hung over the program since leaving Miami in January.
Rapid Reaction is a first look back at what we saw on Saturday without the benefit of a second look at the tape or deep look into the box score.
1. The defense misses Manti Te'o – We shouldn't act so surprised but … we're REALLY surprised how evident his loss was during Week 1. Carlo Calabrese & Dan Fox led the defense in tackles but that might be because Temple attacked the duo in both phases of the game and found way too much success in the middle of the field. Often neither appeared in position to defend a pass or pursue the Temple QB when he broke the pocket for one of his many 1st down scampers. Jarrett Grace played plenty of snaps and I'll be surprised if he's not starting and taking a lion's share of snaps sooner than later.
2. This could be the best group of Irish skill players in a long time – Last time Tommy Rees was the starting quarterback, Notre Dame's offense was working to feature two future 1st round picks in Michael Floyd & Tyler Eifert and the backfield listed four players in NFL camps last week – Robert Hughes, Jonas Gray, Theo Riddick & Cierre Wood. I point this out because I don't want to make this statement lightly and without reference. The collection of athletes at the RB, TE & WR position looked impressive on Saturday. TJ Jones, always a fine route runner, showed more burst that we'd seen previously and Davaris Daniels finally looked the part of a #1 WR and dependable red zone threat. Throw in Troy Niklas's 66 yard TD catch and run with Chris Brown's quality work and the explosive dashes from the backfield and this list could go on a few paragraphs. I'm going to use the word "dynamic" more than is necessary to describe each of these units over the next 4 months. Tommy Rees has the tools at his disposal to score a lot more points than we did last year.
3. Ishaq Williams is maybe still "marinating" – Seeing is believing and I saw some things I really liked from Ishaq and, as it's been with him since Day 1, I saw a few snaps that frustrated me. I loved the effort and motor displayed early and Diaco was also dropping him into faux coverage as a QB "spy" on multiple occasions. A player who can be trusted to fill both of these roles is valuable. Then there was the perfectly timed and executed line stunt that found Ishaq untouched in the face of the QB. His reaction to this ideal situation was unexplainable and inexcusable. I can hear Diaco in the film room from Boise screaming "WHAT! THE! FUCK! IS! THIS! <shakes head violently> WHAT IS IT?!?!?!" My only interpretation is that Ishaq expected Connor Reilly to make a move and when he didn't Ishaq just keep running himself out of position to tackle him or pursue him as he scrambled for a 1st down. Have you ever seen a player juked by an opponent who didn't move a muscle? Throw in a few other snaps where Ishaq underwhelmed and it's another mixed bag from a guy who needs to emerge.
Notre Dame won. Convincingly. No turnovers. No major injuries (Daniels groin is reportedly minor). 10 freshman played and some of them impressively. Michigan isn't taking much from this game after ND kept it simple. Stephon Tuitt looks healthy and explosive. Notre Dame won.
Oh yeah – IT'S MICHIGAN WEEK!!!