Jury still out, but “new” Notre Dame has positive start to 2017

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A summer of attempting to change the narrative and a week’s worth of Brian Kelly trying to tell media outlets this year is going to be different has paid off for at least one week. Notre Dame (1-0) opened the season at home with a 49-16 win against Temple (0-1), and has a few reasons to feel optimistic about this season after one game.

For starters, there is quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush got the Irish off on the right foot Saturday afternoon with a pair of touchdown passes and 106 rushing yards and a score. Brian Kelly has liked having dual threats run the offense, and Wimbush did just that against a Temple defense that was ripe for the picking.

Then there is running back Josh Adams, who tore up the Temple defense for 161 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Adams was a workhorse for the Irish running the football with an average of 8.5 yards per carry. As a team, Notre Dame piled up 353 rushing yards, which was more than the total yardage picked up by Temple on the afternoon.

Notre Dame may have room to improve on the defense, but the Irish did a sound job slowing down the running game for the Owls. It was expected there would be a transition period for Temple with a new head coach in Geoff Collins and a decent amount of roster turnover, an unproven quarterback situyation made running the football a key for Temple. The Irish held the Owls to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, with a trio of sacks helping out in the box score in that department. That is encouraging, but the next game poses a much more serious threat on the ground with Georgia coming in with Nick Chubb. Time will tell if this will hold up.

It wasn’t all bad for Temple, as Logan Marchi battled and passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns in a tough spot. Ryquell Armstead ran 19 times for 67 yards and the Owls spread the ball around in the passing game. It just was not nearly enough to battle Notre Dame in this setting at this time.

Notre Dame will stay home next week to host No. 15 Georgia. The game will be a primetime affair from Notre Dame Stadium with the Irish and Bulldogs squaring off at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC (check your local listings). Georgia opened the season against Appalachian State in a game that was ongoing at the time Notre Dame wrapped up the win. Temple will look to rebound next week with a home game against a local FCS threat from the Main Line, Villanova. Villanova is ranked in the FCS top 25 polls and is coming off a top 25 victory over Lehigh.

Brandon Wimbush scores 3 first-half TDs in first start for Notre Dame

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If this is going to be a different Notre Dame team this season, then new starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush is going to playing a key role. So far, so good as Notre Dame leads Temple 28-10 at the half in the season opener.

Wimbush has accounted for three touchdowns in the first half of the season opener in South Bend against defending American Athletic Conference champion Temple. Wimbush, making his first career start for Notre Dame, has thrown two touchdown passes and rushed for one more, Notre Dame opened up a 28-3 half on the strength of a 21-point first quarter, but the Owls have started to scratch back a little bit.

Logan Marchi completed a touchdown pass to Keith Kirkwood inside the red zone to cut into the lead, but that has been all the Owls have been able to muster aside from a field goal. Temple is playing the game without their top wide receiver, Ventell Bryant, who did not travel with the team due to a reported hamstring injury.

Temple has a lot of ground to make up against a more talented Irish team in the second half, and first-year head coach Geoff Collins will have his work cut out for him to turn this game back in his favor.

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Wake Forest continues ACC’s strong bowl start with upset of No. 24 Temple

Associated Press
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If the ACC’s upper crust is as competitive as the league’s middle class, Florida State, Louisville and Clemson should go ahead and start popping the champagne now. After 6-6 Boston College and 6-6 NC State earned a pair of bowl victories over fellow 6-6 Power 5 teams on Monday, 6-6 Wake Forest scored an impressive pelt on Tuesday with a 34-26 upset of American champion and 24th-ranked Temple in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md.

The Owls, playing on the same field on which they trounced Navy to win their conference title earlier this month, started as they finished that day — with an interception of Wake Forest John Wolford on the third snap of the game, and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Walker to Adonis Jennings just one play later.

Wolford redeemed himself two drives later, finding Cam Serigne for a game-tying 41-yard touchdown pass and then a 20-yard scoring strike to Tabari Hines one drive later, giving Wake Forest a 14-7 lead at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter.

The lead would not change hands again.

In fact, the Demon Deacons (7-6) ripped off a 31-0 first half run, turning a Temple fumble and interception inside its own territory into a pair of touchdowns to build the 24-point lead.

Temple (10-4) spent the next two quarters chipping away at that deficit, using another long touchdown pass from Walker to Jennings and four Aaron Boumerhi field goals to eventually climb back to within 31-26 with 3:56 left to play in the game. But the Owls’ inability to convert on third down did them in; three of Boumerhi’s four field goals were from 38 yards or closer. Walker completed 28-of-49 passes for 396 yards with two scores to Jennings and an interception, but the Owls netted minus-20 rushing yards and converted only one of a dozen third down tries.

With a chance to force a stop and add a touchdown to complete the comeback, Temple allowed an 80-yard kickoff return by John Armstrong to start Wake Forest’s next drive at the Temple 15-yard line. The Deacons could not move the ball, but a 30-yard Mike Weaver field goal pushed the lead to 34-26 with 1:59 remaining, and Temple’s would-be game-tying drive ended before it started as the Owls were pushed off the field in a turnover on downs.

Wolford completed 10-of-19 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns and a pick, while Cade Carney and Matt Colburn combined to rush 31 times for 131 yards and a touchdown apiece.

As good as the ACC’s start to bowl season has been, the American’s has been that bad. Outside of Tulsa’s whipping of Central Michigan, the American has fallen short of expectations this December, with Houston being blown out by San Diego State, Memphis failing to keep pace with Western Kentucky, Central Florida losing to Arkansas State in an effective home game, and now its league champion falling to a 6-6 Power 5 team.

Stout defense has Wake rolling over AAC champ Temple in Military Bowl

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With an off-field controversy seemingly behind them, Wake Forest came into Tuesday afternoon looking for its first postseason win since 2008.  After two quarters of play, they’re 30 minutes away from ending that nearly decade-long drought.

Thanks in very large part to a stifling defense, Wake jumped out to a 14-7 first-quarter lead on Temple in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman and extended it even further in the second to take a 31-10 advantage into the halftime locker room.  How stifling was the Demon Deacon defense?  The Owls scored on a 48-yard touchdown pass on their first play from scrimmage.  The remainder of the half, the Owls managed 89 yards of total offense.

Wake’s run defense was particularly effective, holding Temple to just 14 yards on 15 carries, with 23 of those yards coming on a late carry by Jahad Thomas.  The Owls entered today’s game fourth in the AAC and 51st nationally in averaging just over 191 yards per game on the ground.

John Wolford nearly accounted for a majority of the offense for both teams, passing for 183 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns in helping the Demon Deacons grab a solid first-half lead.  Temple’s offense (137) and Wake’s rushing offense (80) accounted for a combined 217 yards as, aside from Wolford’s performance, it was a decidedly defensive first two quarters of play.

The Owls are currently riding a seven-game winning streak, which included a win in the AAC championship game.  That proved to be Matt Rhule‘s last game as the head coach as he left for the Baylor job and is not coaching this postseason contest.

The Demon Deacons, meanwhile, had lost two of their las eight after winning four straight to start the 2016 season.