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Bring on the Fighting Irish: Unbeaten Temple Ready for No. 9 Notre Dame at the Linc

30 Oct

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By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Temple's P.J. Walker has a monumental task ahead of him in Saturday' game against Notre Dame.

Temple’s P.J. Walker has a monumental task ahead of him in Saturday’ game against Notre Dame.

PHILADELPHIA—The City of Brotherly Love will become one of the nation’s largest college towns this weekend with all the pomp and circumstance accompanying the game where unbeaten, No. 21 Temple (7-0, 4-0) will try to prove it belongs among the elite teams in college football when it takes on No. 9 Notre Dame Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field in front of nationally-televised audience.

As an event, this game is probably the second biggest thing to happen to Philly since the recent visit of Pope Francis. It’s so big that the cast and crew of ESPN’s College Game Day will take over Independence Mall for it’s weekly college football preview show.

That’s right, you’ll get to see Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso, who Temple fans hope will wear the head of the Temple Owl (meaning he’s predicting a victory for the Cherry and the White.)
In other words, for this weekend at least, the entire city will be Temple University’s Main Campus.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Owls will face their biggest non-conference challenge in a Notre Dame squad that is still in the running for the four-team College Football Playoff. If Temple can pull off the upset, it can make its own case for a seat at that table.

But despite all of the distractions, and let’s face it, College Gameday and everything that goes with it is a distraction, Temple head coach Matt Rhule said the focus of his team is not going to change in terms of doing the things they do well.

“To focus on what we can control and to focus on what’s next and embrace the moment …The only thing we can do is control how we play,” Rhule said. “We have great leadership from our older guys and as I told them it has be to about us and how we play. We can’t control how good Notre Dame is. We can control our preparation.”

The Notre Dame (6-1) squad the Owls will be facing is a team that’s had its share of adversity and has somehow fought its way through it. Even though the Fighting Irish lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire to a season-ending ankle injury, DeShone Kizer has stepped in to fill the void and has done well.

Notre Dame wide receiver and Philadelphia native Will Fuller has the attention of the Temple defense.

Notre Dame wide receiver and Philadelphia native Will Fuller has the attention of the Temple defense.

Kizer has passed for 1,370 yards, completed 65 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdown passes. It also helps that he has some solid weapons at his disposal. Notre Dame’s best receiver is Philadelphia native and former Roman Catholic star Will Fuller, who leads the Fighting Irish in receiving with 32 catches for 702 yards and eight touchdowns.

Temple’s defense, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense, will also have their hands full with running back C.J. Prosise, who is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He has gained 922 yards and has scored 11 touchdowns.
On the offensive line, the Fighting Irish are led by a pair of mid-season All-Americans in center Nick Martin (6-4, 301) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (6-5, 315).

“They have a really good offensive line, really solid up front,” said defensive lineman Matt Ioannidas. “They have a really strong tailback, but our defense is going to match up well against them. We’re excited to play them.”

Offensively, Temple has its own set of weapons in quarterback P.J. Walker , who’s having a solid season passing the football. He’s completing close to 60 percent of his passes and had nine touchdowns. In the win over East Carolina, Walker completed 19-of-35 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown. He said his team will be ready for the Notre Dame defense.

“They’re a talented group,” Walker said. “They got a lot of big guys with a lot of speed, but we feel like if we’re playing our game we’ll be alright.”

Running back Jahad Thomas said the Owls have to come into the game focused on beating a Notre Dame defense, led by All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith, who leads the Fighting Irish in tackles.

“It’s not that we’re getting excited to play the Irish, but we know it’s a great opponent ahead of us, but we’ve got to come out and do the things we’ve been doing and just be ready to play,” Thomas said.

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A Heck of a Coaching Job by Meyer Winning National Championship with Third String QB

13 Jan

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Ohio State Buckeyes are on the top of the college football world and they did it in unlikely fashion.

Playing in just his third game, Ohio State Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to its first national championship since 2001.

Playing in just his third game, Ohio State Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to its first national championship since 2001.

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer will probably be remembered for pulling off one of the great coaching jobs not just college football history, perhaps in the history of the game.

The fact that the Buckeyes made it to the national championship game against Oregon with a third-string quarterback was a remarkable achievement. That Ohio State won it all is simply amazing.

Sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones, making just his third start, was a beast of a signal caller. He completed 16-of-23 for 242 yards and one touchdown. As a rusher, he gained 38 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown. Jones used his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame to physically punish the Ducks on short-yardage situations.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions after his team's win over Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Photo by USA Today.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions after his team’s win over Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Photo by USA Today.

Meyer said Jones was actually the second string quarterback in the spring, but lost it to J.T. Barrett during August training camp. He said Jones of a study of what happens when you get a chance to redeem yourself.

“Everybody in life has a chance to push restart,” Meyer said. “Not many people on a grand stage like Cardale has and he has pushed restart and hit the right button and that’s called selfless approach and a serious approach to how he handles his business on and off the field.”

Jones credited Meyer for challenging him and his teammates to be better football players.

“He gets the best out of us in different waJones ys,” said. “Even in the same room as far as the quarterbacks, so the way he gets the best out of us is second to none and that’s why we’re here today.”

Speaking of getting physical, running back Ezekiel Elliot ran through the Oregon defense for 246 yards on 36 carries and scored four touchdowns. Ohio State as a team had 296 yards on the ground. In the second half, the offense was on the field 23 out of the 30 minutes.

Defensively, the Buckeyes slowed down Oregon’s fast-paced offense and kept them from scoring in the red zone including a critical fourth down stop in the second quarter. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Losing the starter for the season can devastate most teams and can ruin the most promising of seasons. Ohio State not only weathered the storm of losing its starting quarterback, it has experienced a season that I don’t think anyone saw coming when the Buckeyes lost their second string quarterback at the end of the regular season.

And somehow they won the national championship.

“That’s the essence of a good team,” Meyer said. “If you can hit the storm and come out the other end stronger, that’s a real, real, real team and how many of those are out there? I’ve done this 30 years and probably can count them on one hand.

“Some people think this is the luck of the draw. I think it’s leadership and training.”

First, the Buckeyes lost Heisman Trophy candidate and two-time Big 10 Player of the Year Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury 12 days before the season began.

That situation put the onus on backup J.T. Barrett who not only won 11-of-12 games, but became a Heisman Trophy candidate himself.

Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdown touchdowns passes. He also ran for 938 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

Just when things were looking rosy for the Buckeyes, Barrett suffered a broken ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan and things looked bleak for Ohio State.

Jones made his first start in what was the biggest game of the season, the Big 10 Championship game against a hot Wisconsin squad and another Heisman candidate in running back Melvin Gordon.

In his first game as a starter against the Badger Jones completed 12-of-17 for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Buckeyes came away with a resounding 59-0 win.

Coming into the Sugar Bowl, the College Football Playoff semifinals, all the experts said there was no way Jones and Ohio State was going to beat SEC power Alabama with a third-string quarterback.

Sho’ nuf, sho nuff … Jones led the Buckeyes to a 42-35 win to put them into the title game.

Jones came up huge against the Crimson Tide, completing 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown. He also had 43 yards rushing.

Not many coaches—pro or college—have made a run through the postseason without their starting quarterback. It’s rare you win anything when you’re down to your third quarterback. I can think of one that comes close.
In 1965, Baltimore Colts head coach Don Shula lost legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas to a season-ending knee injury and they lost their backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo to an injury that ended his season.

The Colts were down to their emergency quarterback, running back Tom Matte, who oddly enough was a collegiate quarterback at Ohio State, and faced the Green Bay Packers in the Western Conference playoff after the two teams finished the season tied for first place.

Matte and the Colts led Green Bay 10-7 for most of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, the Packers sent the game into overtime on a controversial 22-yard field goal that appeared to be wide right.  Green Bay eventually won it in sudden death.

Wearing a wristband with the Colts plays, Matte managed the Baltimore offense well, completing 5-of-12 passes for 40 yards and running for 57 yards on 17 carries. Matte’s wristband is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Jones name will be inscribed on a national championship trophy thanks to his coach.