Goose egg for Temple kicker

South Bend Tribune

College football didn’t give Jim Cooper a warm welcome on Saturday.

Temple’s freshman kicker won the starting job in preseason camp and made his collegiate debut in Notre Dame Stadium. He left with a goose egg on two field goal attempts and an extra point.

Then he was given the responsibility of answering questions from the media after the game. He stood in front of reporters and took the blame.

"The snap was perfect. The hold was perfect. The blocking was impeccable. I just didn't hit it right,” Cooper said. “It came down to me and I just didn't make them.”

Cooper missed the first field goal, a 32-yarder, as time expired in the first quarter. The kick sailed wide right. He had a chance to redeem himself on the next drive, but knocked the ball too far to the right again on a 43-yard attempt.

He might be forgiven for the missed extra point, which was blocked by Irish defensive lineman Jarron Jones. Either way, Cooper might try his best to forget about his rough start.

"You want to get the best start possible, but it's a bad game. It's happens,” Cooper said. “The coaches are being really supportive. The players, the seniors, are really getting me through it. It's a bad game. It happens. Just trying to move on from it.”

Temple head coach Matt Rhule passed on any field goal attempts in the second half, but said he remains confident in his young kicker.

“I hated for him to miss those kicks because he's going to be a great kicker for a long time. ... That is unfair for a freshman to have to deal with that in that environment,” Rhule said. “I thought his teammates rallied around him and told him we need you to come back and help us win the game in the end. Hopefully next week he'll get himself righted up.”

Burnt deep early

Linebacker Tyler Matakevich said the Temple defense was prepared for Notre Dame’s secretive Pistol offense. What they weren’t as well prepared for was quarterback Tommy Rees stretching the field in the passing game.

“Didn't expect it,” said Matakevich, who led Temple with 11 tackles and two tackles for a loss. “We ended up adjusting to it. They just made it early and we didn't.”

Rees completed three passes of more than 30 yards on the first two possessions. A 51-yard completion to TJ Jones was sandwiched between two 32-yard touchdown passes to DaVaris Daniels.

A 66-yard touchdown pass to tight end Troy Niklas in the final minute of the first half proved to be a back-breaker. The Owls rebounded to allow just one more touchdown in the game, but did succumb 543 total yards of offense to the Irish.

“We gave up some big plays that definitely cost us in the end,” Matakevich said. "We played all the way up until the game ended. You really can't take anything away from them. We didn't quit."

Another spoiled debut

Rookie head coach Matt Rhule started his new Temple tenure on Saturday with a loss. The result is the first thing he’d change if had another chance.

“Change? I'd like to win the next one, if I could,” Rhule said.

Rhule was given his first head coaching opportunity after 15 years of experience at the collegiate and professional levels. He coached with the New York Giants in 2012 after six years as an assistant coach for Temple. Saturday’s game needed a stronger start.

“Just get off to a better start probably,” Rhule said of lessons learned, “and continue to be aggressive as a coach and as a program.”

Temple tidbits

Saturday’s meeting marked the first football matchup between Notre Dame and Temple. ... Senior wide receiver Ryan Alderman led the Owls in receiving with four catches for 65 yards. He caught five passes for 51 yards in the entire 2012 season. ... A victory over Notre Dame would have given Temple only its third upset over a nationally ranked team in program history. The Owls beat No. 14 Virginia Tech in 1998 and No. 16 Pittsburgh in 1987. ... Temple is the only team on Notre Dame’s 2013 schedule that didn’t play in a bowl game last season. ... The Owls will play their first game in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference next week at home against Houston.

Notre Dame QB Andrew Hendrix high fives a fan as he takes the field before the Notre Dame vs. Temple college football game on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN