PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Temple Owls will get a real good feel for where they are right away here in 2013. Coming off a 4-7 campaign, the Owls open their college football season on Saturday afternoon as they visit #14 Notre Dame.
The game will also be the debut of new Temple head coach Matt Rhule.
“It’s why you coach the games, it’s why you do all the work that you do,” Rhule tells KYW Newsradio. “For me, I wouldn’t want to start any other way. I think our players feel the same way. What this game lets them do is, it lets them go out and measure themselves against the very best and see if in that moment if they’ll stand up or if they’ll shrink back. And I’m pretty convinced that our guys are going to stand up and play as well as they can.”
Rhule thinks his first training camp leading up to this battle with the Irish was a success.
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“We’ve had a great camp,” Rhule says. “Our players have bought into our system and kind of the way we do things. And I think we are ready as we can be for our opening of play.”
Under center, Rhule has chosen junior Connor Reilly as his starting quarterback.
“Connor’s got a great arm,” Rhule says. “He played on the baseball team for Temple. He can throw the ball 75, 80 yards. He’s accurate, he’s a winner, he’s a tough guy. So I think he’s going to do a great job of kind of leading and directing our offense. For him, it will be his first-ever college pass, the first pass he throws at Notre Dame, so he doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he has a lot of grit and determination and he’s the kind of guy we want leading our team.”
Rhule also thinks he has a nice group of receivers for Reilly to throw to. He adds that a key for his offense will be getting production in the running game.
“We’ve had some great running backs over the last couple years,” Rhule says. “If we can get some high level of production like we’ve gotten from Bernard Pierce, Montel Harris and Matt Brown. If we can get something even close to that, it will really help.”
On the other side of the ball, the Owls have a lot of veterans manning things at the point of attack.
“We have a senior defensive line,” Rhule says. “We have guys in Levi Brown and Kamal Johnson, Shahid Paulhill and Sean Daniels, who have played a lot of football for us. We have a good young, solid linebacking corps.”
Rhule says the defensive backfield is the area of the unit that needs to come together.
“We’re really young in the secondary at the safety positions, probably going to play a couple of freshmen,” Rhule says. “If they can come together and jell, and play well, I think our defense will make some real strides, quickly.”
As for this opener with a talented Irish squad, Rhule knows his team has difficult challenge in front of them.
“The first thing you have to do is you have to stop Notre Dame’s run game,” Rhule says. “They do a fantastic job of just knocking people back. They’ve got a couple of four-year starters on the offensive line, some guys that are going to be pro players. So we can’t allow them to run the football and be in manageable downs. We’re going to have to stop the run and hope that we can turn this into more of a throwing game and see where that takes us. Offensively, we’re going to have to find a way to attack probably the best defensive line in the nation. They’ve got two guys who are top-ten picks on their defensive line. We have to find a way to neutralize them. So if we can neutralize them and manufacturer some offense in the run game, get the ball thrown out and make some plays, I think we’ll have a chance to hang in there.”
Temple and Notre Dame kick-off on Saturday at 3:30pm in South Bend, Indiana.
You can follow Matt on twitter @mattleonkyw.