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Former Temple QB Connor Reilly recalls his first start at Notre Dame

Just as Temple will be having a new quarterback start his first game on Saturday at Notre Dame, Connor Reilly was in the same situation during his starting debut in 2013.

Former Temple quarterback Connor Reilly, here handing the ball off to former Temple running back Kenny Harper in 2013, remembers his first college start.
Former Temple quarterback Connor Reilly, here handing the ball off to former Temple running back Kenny Harper in 2013, remembers his first college start.Read moreH. RUMPH JR. / File Photograph

Temple will be opening its football season Saturday with a quarterback making his first start in a game at Notre Dame.

Sound familiar?

Temple hasn't announced its starting quarterback and coach Geoff Collins suggested as many as three could play against the Fighting Irish, but no matter who will be, the Owls will have a new first stringer after Phillip Walker started the previous 47 games.

Connor Reilly knows what it is like.

A junior in 2013, Reilly was named the starter in Temple's opening game at Notre Dame, played on Aug. 31, 2013. He had never attempted a college pass before that game. His claim to fame before that point was being the holder for placekicker Brandon McManus, now with the Denver Broncos.

So playing his first game at Notre Dame was quite a challenge.

"It was a ton of nerves, but I was excited," said Reilly in a phone interview from his home Colorado. "I was pretty amped up."

Temple would lose the game, 28-6, but played well against the No. 14 Irish. In fact, that was one of the better showings for Temple in coach Matt Rhule's first year.

Reilly said hoped to have immediate success to calm those nerves.

"I wanted to be successful on the first play," he said. "I wanted the first pass to be completed, and wanted to take a hit and handle it at that level."

He got his wish on the first two plays. On the first play, he picked up four yards on the ground, and on the second, he completed a five-yard pass to Jalen Fitzpatrick.

"After those two plays, I didn't think about what was happening," Reilly said. "I didn't notice the crowd at all and focused on the game."

The attendance was 80,795, but one thing surprised Reilly.

"As prestigious a school as Notre Dame is, the crowd wasn't really that loud," he recalled.

Temple would end that season 2-10 and Notre Dame finished 9-4, but in this game, the Owls were more competitive than many expected.

Notre Dame jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Temple cut it to 14-6 on Kenny Harper's 1-yard run with 1 minute and 1 second left in the second quarter.

The Fighting Irish then scored on a 66-yard pass from Tommy Reiss to Troy Niklas to take a 21-6 halftime lead and assume command for good.

Reilly enjoyed a strong debut, completing 23 of 46 passes for 228 yards with no interceptions, while rushing for a team-best 65 yards on 12 carries. He says he wasn't surprised that the Owls moved the ball and were competitive against the Irish.

"We felt confident going into the game," he said. "Most of the time against a bigger program, the key is whether you can withstand making mistakes."

Temple lost one fumble and missed field goals of 32 and 43 yards along with a failed extra point. Notre Dame had no turnovers.

Reilly says that he finds it ironic that a new Temple quarterback will be making his first start at Notre Dame.

"Hopefully the outcome is different," said Reilly, who just completed a two-year stint playing football in France.

Reilly hurt his knee the next week in a loss to Houston, missed a game against Fordham, and made two more starts before being replaced by Walker in the sixth game against Cincinnati.

For Reilly, that Notre Dame game provided his most memorable college football moment.

"It has to be," Reilly said. "I know it was a loss, but to be in that venue as prestigious as it was personally the highlight of my career, but team-wise it wasn't."