Instant Analysis: Notre Dame keeps playoff hopes alive with win at Temple
PHILADELPHIA — Temple didn't make it easy on Notre Dame, but DeShone Kizer rallied the Irish to a 24–20 win in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Here are three though on Notre Dame's victory.
1. DeShone Kizer, Captain Clutch
Before Saturday night, it would have been hard to imagine Notre Dame winning a game when C.J. Prosise rushed 13 times for 24 yards and Will Fuller caught just five passes for 46 yards. But the Irish have a new star in Kizer.
The sophomore completed 23 of 35 passes for 299 yards with a touchdown (the game-winning score to Fuller) and rushed for 135 yards with two scores. On a night when Temple's defense gave Notre Dame little to work with, Kizer made the offense go. He withstood a constant barrage of pressure and executed the read-option to near perfection for a 79-yard score after Temple took the lead in the second quarter.
Although Kizer threw two interceptions in the red zone, he rebounded when it counted, leading a six-play, 75 yard drive in 2:01 to rally the Irish to victory after a 36-yard field goal from Austin Jones gave Temple a late 20–17 lead. Kizer's 17-yard toss hit Fuller just before the safety arrived to give the Irish the lead for good. “He got the game ball for leading the drive on the road,” coach Brian Kelly said of Kizer. “Make the throw at the end of the game against a cover two was outstadning. He showed great poise and leadership.”
It was difficult to see how Notre Dame would stay afloat after Malik Zaire's season-ending injury forced the Irish to go to Kizer—the third-stringer in the spring—but he's proved up to the task. Notre Dame would have lost Saturday night without him.
2. Temple's defense is really, really good
The Owls' defense came up one stop short of what would have been the biggest win in program history, but it still proved its worth and showed why Temple could earn a New Year's Six bowl bid. Temple's first interception, hauled in by defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike, was a vintage Owls takeaway. Before the snap, Temple showed a number of different blitzes, threatening to send just about every linebacker and safety. When the pressure came, Notre Dame was not prepared to handle it, and Kizer was forced to heave a pass off his back foot.
Prosise had a tougher day against Temple than he did against Clemson's formidable front seven in a loss earlier this month, gaining just 1.8 yards per carry. Notre Dame's superior speed and athleticism led to a few explosion plays on what few mistakes Temple did make. But when the Owls executed, which they did nearly every time, the Irish found little room to operate.
3. Notre Dame's playoff hopes survive
With this win, the Irish live to fight another day for the College Football Playoff. Their two-point loss to the Tigers won't keep them out if Clemson (8-0) continues to pile on victories. Challenges still remain, particularly a Nov. 28 trip to Stanford, but Notre Dame passed a difficult test Saturday. Entering Saturday, the Irish lacked a quality win to hang their hats on. Now their best argument for inclusion in the top four is no longer a close loss.