SOUTH BEND, INDIANA — Geoff Collins’ latest incarnation of the Mayhem Defense got off to a rough start.
The Owls allowed a 33-yard pass from junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush to junior wideout Equanimeous St. Brown along the left sideline on the first play of the game. Then junior running back Josh Adams ran 37 yards into the end zone for Notre Dame’s first touchdown.
Adams and the Fighting Irish ran for 422 yards in their 49-16 win against Temple at Notre Dame Stadium. They rushed for their highest total since gaining 457 yards on the ground against the University of Massachusetts in 2015. The team struggled filling gaps on run plays, coach Geoff Collins said.
“Defensively, we misfit a bunch of things, led to some big plays, which you can’t do against really good running backs, a really good quarterback that’s shifty and can make plays in space and those kind of things have to be eliminated,” he said. “We just addressed the team. I love them, I’m proud of the way they competed, the way they fought, they never quit. But just some of the missed fits on some of those big plays were killers.”
Notre Dame had another quick drive with two minutes, 23 seconds left in the first quarter. After a carry for no gain, Adams ran for 60 yards to the Temple 12-yard line before being forced out of bounds by senior safety Sean Chandler. Senior tight end Nic Weishar caught his first career touchdown on the next play.
Three of the Fighting Irish’s seven touchdown drives took less than 75 seconds. The Owls allowed six running plays of 20 or more yards and three passes of 20 or more yards. In the third quarter, junior running back Dexter Williams’ 40-yard run set up a seven-yard rushing touchdown on the next play by sophomore running back Tony Jones Jr.
On a Notre Dame drive that started with 3:22 left in the game, Williams ran three times for 69 yards to give the Fighting Irish a 49-16 lead. He finished with six carries for 124 yards and a score.
Three different running backs ran for more than 100 yards. Adams led the way for the Fighting Irish with 161 yards on 19 carries and scored twice. It’s the ninth time in his career that he has rushed for more than 100 yards. Wimbush ran for 106 yards on 12 carries in his first college start.
Wimbush last saw game action against the Massachusetts in 2015. The 6-foot-1-inch, 228-pound quarterback completed 17-of-30 attempts for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a good quarterback,” junior safety Delvon Randall said. “He keeps us on our toes, you know. I mean, he’s very good don’t get me wrong. But like I said, we just didn’t execute.”
The Owls dropped two potential interceptions that could have been returned for touchdowns. Sophomore linebacker Sam Franklin had yards of open field in front on him when he dropped the ball on Notre Dame’s second drive. Late in the second quarter, Wimbush’s hurried screen pass hit redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman DeAndre Kelly in the hands and fell to the turf. The drive ended in a missed field goal by junior kicker Justin Yoon.
Redshirt-senior cornerback Mike Jones intercepted Wimbush and returned the ball 43 yards to set the Owls up at Notre Dame’s 14-yard line at the 6:47-mark. Temple lost eight yards on its next three plays and senior kicker Austin Jones missed a field goal.
Collins and Temple finally had to answer the question fans and media asked throughout the preseason. Who is the quarterback?
Redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi took the field for the Owls’ first drive and played the entire game. Collins said he never thought about replacing Marchi with freshman Todd Centeio, redshirt junior Frank Nutile or redshirt freshman Anthony Russo. Marchi completed 19-of-35 attempts for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Collins wouldn’t say if Marchi will start next week’s game against Villanova.
Redshirt-junior wideout Ventell Bryant didn’t make the trip with Temple to Notre Dame Stadium. Bryant nursed a hamstring injury throughout the preseason. Sophomore Isaiah Wright led Temple in receiving with four catches for 79 yards.
Bryant is “going to come back next week” in the Owls’ against Villanova, Kirkwood said.
“They’re a great team,” Kirkwood said of Notre Dame. “They came out, and they played better. They were just a better team, and I’m excited for their future and what they have in store. But we’re focused on next week, go 1-0 next week.”