SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After it was finally over, Temple's new coach kept talking about misfits. His defensive players came into the news conference speaking the same language. Wild guess: They were talking about misfits in the Owls' locker room, too.
It's not what it sounds like, although the final score here — Notre Dame 49, Temple 16 — might make you think the Temple Owls really were calling themselves a bunch of misfits.
Delvon Randall, a veteran safety who led Temple with 11 tackles, said the misfits were a problem out there.
"Just going through the wrong gap,'' Randall said. "We'll clean it up."
After two straight seasons in which Temple's defense met all sorts of challenges, the Owls got a wake-up call Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium — within seconds. Two plays, and Notre Dame's tailback from Bucks County was in the end zone. Three Irish scores came in the first quarter. By the end, the home team had run for 434 yards. Even Temple players were using the word embarrassment.
For the Owls, it's not as simple as passing out single-digit jerseys and handing everyone a metaphorical can of Swag and expecting the next guys to do what the guys who came before them did. Can't just walk around talking about Temple Tuff. They're not in denial about that.
Maybe it takes some embarrassment to get there, though. The previous group of Owls, even the ones now in the NFL, experienced some of that early in their careers. They talked about the importance of it in their own development.
It's easy to focus on the Temple guys who have moved on to the NFL, but the recent Owls also had defenders who were maybe not built for the next level but had big-time college careers. For instance, Avery Williams was a linebacker who was shorter than 6 feet but a devastating hitter, whatever gap he was going through.
Owls head coach Geoff Collins told it like it was afterward. The former Florida Gators defensive coordinator didn't deny the obvious, didn't make it seem as if maybe this was just a bad day against a good team. It was that. And it was more than that.
"We had a bunch of rookies playing, especially on defense,'' Collins said. "They kind of acted like rookies at times. And I told them the truth, I thought I acted like a rookie early."
That's what a new coach is supposed to do when he's speaking truths, talk about "us,'' not just "them."
As Central Bucks South High School graduate Josh Adams got moving fast toward his eventual 161 rushing yards — he went 37 yards for his first score just 33 seconds in — there were too many early missed tackles.
"I knew going into it we were replacing three starting linebackers, and I thought we had some very talented kids in the game,'' Collins said. "I think we played. I think we had seven linebackers play today."
And dealing with some of the tempo problems Notre Dame presented, it was tough, Collins said.
Add another piece: Notre Dame has four starting offensive linemen back, and the left side of its line is two guys who would be in the NFL right now if they had decided to turn pro.
Did top Irish lineman Mike McGlinchey, a Penn Charter graduate, sense any early confusion from Temple?
"I don't know if we sensed confusion, but we sensed urgency from them, that they weren't going to sit still,'' McGlinchey said. "They threw a lot of movement and a lot of blitz at us, so maybe that had something to do with it."
And Notre Dame could take advantage of that aggression?
"I think so,'' McGlinchey said. "I think that's where we've improved ourselves up front. A lot of times last year when things like that happened, we didn't see things the same way. We didn't execute the right way."
Temple guys maybe can take heed from McGlinchey's thought that "the study and work we've put into this over the last year or so" allowed them to see and communicate situations better and then attack it. Nobody around here has forgotten Notre Dame's 4-8 2016 season.
"Instead of just laying back and getting your hands on movers, we were able to take them where they didn't want to go,'' McGlinchey said.
In addition to talking about the missed assignments, Collins said, "I didn't think we tackled the way that we have all preseason, grabbing cloth, all the things that we preach. There's some times that once the game starts slipping away or once a big play starts happening, you start trying to make up for it by being too over-aggressive and not relying on your fundamentals and techniques, and I thought that happened at times today as well."