SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame got just about everything it could have hoped for in an opening game coming off a disappointing 4-8 season: solid play on defense, three 100-yard rushers and first-time starter Brandon Wimbush throwing for a pair of touchdowns in a 49-16 win over Temple on Saturday.
“When you can exhibit some of the perseverance and the grit that we showed that is needed to have a successful season, that's a good day for me,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
It was a different story for the Owls under first-year coach Geoff Collins as Temple struggled throughout.
“There have been a lot of fun moments and some exciting moments I was really looking forward to as a first-time head coach, and this was not one of them,” Collins said. “We came out slow early. At halftime, I told the kids we had a lot of rookies out there and I thought I acted like a rookie early.”
Wimbush, a junior, threw touchdown passes to Equanimeous St. Brown and Nic Weisher and completed 17 of 30 passes for 184 yards with one interception. He also ran for 106 yards on 12 carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run.
“I thought that for a guy starting for the first time, he provided some excitement and energy to the offense,” Kelly said. “I think everybody that watched him can see the tools that he has; the ability to run, throw the football. He's tough. He got hit today. He got back up. Again, I think when you assess the quarterback position at the end of the day, they are going to assess him on wins and losses and today was a good day for the quarterback at Notre Dame because we are 1-0.”
Wimbush said he wasn't surprised by anything he saw.
“I'll be sore tomorrow, but right now I'm great physically, mentally, emotionally,” he said.
Josh Adams scored the quickest opening-season touchdown for Notre Dame in 24 years and rushed for 112 yards in the first quarter alone to get the Irish started. Adams finished with 161 yards rushing on 19 carries and Dexter Williams added 124 yards rushing on six carries.
“We just came out with intensity,” Adams said. “We trusted in our training and everything we've been through the offseason and just going out there and having fun and forcing what we wanted to happen.”
Temple, the defending American Athletic Conference champion, didn't score a touchdown until Logan Marchi, a St. Paul graduate and Bristol native, connected with Keith Kirkwood in the end zone to cut the score to 28-10 with six minutes left in the first half. Marchi threw another touchdown pass to Brodrick Yancy in the fourth quarter. It was Marchi’s first collegiate start.
Adams scored on a 37-yard run 33 seconds into the game, the fastest touchdown to open a season for the Irish since linebacker Pete Bercich returned an interception 21 yards on the opening play against Northwestern in 1993. It was the quickest offensive touchdown for the Irish to open a season since at least 1963.
Wimbush set up the touchdown run with a 33-yard pass to St. Brown on the first play.
“That first play was huge for my confidence,” he said.
The score on the second play of the game was set up by a 33-yard pass from Wimbush to St. Brown. Adams also had a 60-yard run to set up Notre Dame's third touchdown, a 12-yard pass by Wimbush to Weisher.
The Irish, with four returning starters on the offensive line, rushed for 422 yards. It was the most yards rushing for Notre Dame since running for 457 in a 62-27 win over Massachusetts in 2015. The Irish finished with 606 yards total offense to 330 for Temple.
Collins had indicated he might use as many as three quarterbacks, but stuck with Marchi, who was 19-of-35 passing for 245 yards and the two scores.