SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It was definitely better than last time.
Notre Dame played a football game for the first time since concluding one of its worst, and while Saturday's wasn't one that will impress the masses, the 28-6 victory illustrated how the Irish and their head coach will conduct business in 2013.
"Here's what I know, to win football games at the BCS level, you have to take care of the football," said fourth-year head coach Brian Kelly, he of the newly minted five-year contract that is intended to keep him in South Bend through 2017. "We took care of the football today, no turnovers. You have to keep the points down on defense. We continue to do that.
"Our defense does not surrender big plays, keeps the points down, and really makes you work to sustain drives and to get it into the end zone. You could see in the second half how difficult it is to play mistake-free and flawless, play-in and play-out. It's very difficult to do."
It's exactly what Notre Dame's offense did on its first two series of the contest, scoring consecutive touchdowns on drives that lasted 1:26, and 1:01, respectively, both culminating in Tommy Rees to DaVaris Daniels 32-yard touchdowns.
The scores were the first of Daniels' career; the yardage from both helped Rees fire for a career-best 346 yards on just 16 completions.
"We got a look that we had prepped all week and we had confidence in DaVaris going out there and winning one-on-one," said Rees of his second touchdown to Daniels, a post-corner route. "I just had to put the ball up there for him to go get it.
"I felt great. We had a really good week of practice and have all the confidence in the world in my teammates and the scheme. It was fun out there."
Daniels left the game midway through the second quarter after pulling up short of a long sidelines pass, a groin injury the culprit that likely robbed him of a third score.
"We could have played him, but we felt like the depth that we have at that position…it was next man in. But he could have played," said Kelly. "We wanted to make sure we did not put him in a position where it could have been words, and make sure that he's a hundred percent for next week."
Next week will doubtless be tougher for both teams, with Notre Dame traveling to Ann Arbor to take on a Michigan squad that hammered in-state rival Central, 59-9. But the 2013 Irish, like their departed brethren from the championship run of 2012, will focus only on the task at hand, and today's didn't include emptying the chamber.
"We obviously didn't show a lot of our stuff today, which was our intention," Kelly said. "We're happy we didn't have to put our entire game plan out there for everybody to see. So that was a pretty good deal."
Digging in Defensively
One half, 43 snaps, 236 yards, 6 points, and perhaps most surprising, a rushing touchdown allowed.
Temple's ability to move the football over the first 30 minutes was likely vexing for most fans in attendance. The home crowd has grown accustomed to opponents finishing with similar numbers to the Owls first-half production, but rather over an entire 60-minute contest vs. Bob Diaco's Irish defense.
Color Kelly unconcerned.
"I had the feel and the flow of the game pretty -- we felt like we could score, and we were going to score enough points," said Kelly of his defense's occasional lapses in the first stanza. "I didn't feel like I had to click over and tell Bob to bring pressure and get the ball back. I didn't feel like at any time that we were in position that (we needed) to take the ball.
"If they were going to continue to just take stick routes and swings, I was okay in letting that happen. That's how we play defensively."
Diaco's defense has now held 26 of its last 32 opponents to two touchdowns or fewer. (Notre Dame lost three of the previous five in which it failed to do so dating back through Halloween 2010.)
Temple finished with 362 total yards, more than 11 of Notre Dame's 13 foes last fall, but the Owls managed just 126 during the second stanza.
Kelly Hits 200 Wins, Contract Extension
Kelly and the Irish have prevailed in 26 of their last 32 contests, but that total is a mere drop in the bucket for the 23-season coaching veteran. Kelly earned his 200th career victory Saturday and took time to thank those that helped him along the way.
"I haven't really taken the time to think about it, other than a lot of the coaches that are with me today have been part of a lot of those wins," said Kelly. "And that's really, for me, pretty special.
"(Receivers coach) Mike Denbrock, he might have been with me on my first and my 200th, and then (other) coaches along the way. So it's pretty special that a lot of the guys that were here for the 200th have been along the way with me on a number of those wins."
Kelly reached his 200th victory in 270 career games, becoming the fifth fastest college coach to do so among those that coached at least five years at a school classified as a major University.
"I just wanted to take a minute on behalf of (University President) Father Jenkins and the rest of the University of Notre Dame, to say how thrilled we are that on a day where our head football coach becomes one of the youngest coaches in history to achieve the 200-win milestone, that we can also announce we have entered into a new agreement that ensures that Brian will continue to provide the leadership that has fundamentally changed this program, restored it, and given it the foundation that it needs for continued success in the future," said director of athletics Jack Swarbrick.
Neither Swarbrick nor Kelly discussed the contract's specifications (it now runs through 2017, a five-year deal beginning today. His previous contract, signed in 2009, had been extended through 2016.)
"By my signature on it, Father Jenkins' signature on it, and Jack Swarbrick's signature on it, we've all agreed that the principles within this contract is that we're all in it together, and our voices, the communication was the huge piece for me. That the dialog is open, and that's what I was looking for."