Reilly manages the game well in his Temple debut
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - An underrated aspect of a hurry-up, no-huddle offense is the ability to change on the fly after getting a look at the defense. There's extra time to do it, as Temple showed on Saturday at Notre Dame.
Since Connor Reilly was making his debut as Temple's quarterback, his coaches changed plays from the sideline, and often had success doing it.
"They didn't want to immerse me and fully put me underneath water," Reilly said after the 28-6 defeat. "I was just supposed to manage the game, distribute the ball. I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
Before Saturday, Reilly was best known as a guy who led the Owls onto the field the last couple of seasons waving an American flag. His father, an Army officer, had a Temple flag with him on missions in Afghanistan.
Now, Reilly leads the Owls in a much fuller sense. When Matt Rhule took over and installed his offense, he told his guys that quarterbacks are only playmakers three or four times a game - "that's it." He looked around at who could manage a game and get the ball to the playmakers and decided Reilly was his guy.
On Saturday, Reilly, a 6-foot-3 junior from Fairfax, Va., threw no interceptions and was sacked only once in completing 23 of 46 passes for 228 yards. He saw when nothing was happening and did not hesitate to decide that his best target was on the sideline. When Notre Dame pressured him, Reilly also ran effectively, 12 times for 65 yards. He was Temple's leading rusher.
Reilly didn't consider that to be such a great thing, more a sign of rookie jitters: Instead of letting a blitz come to him and finding a receiver on a hot read, he took off too often.
That said, calling the right protections for his blockers seemed to be a real strength.
"There were a few things I definitely missed and Coach said, 'You might have died,' " Reilly said after the game.
The QB added, "I'm still here. It can only get better from here. I can only get better at picking stuff up."
Reilly was limping a bit for a stretch of the second half. It wasn't from a direct hit, he said.
"The guy fell on my ankle," Reilly said. "It didn't land correctly. The ankle's fine. Just a little tape, some aspirin. I'll be all right."
Reilly pointed out the great job done by his linemen, ticking off all the names, starting with center Kyle Friend, a sophomore who held off Irish all-American Louis Nix III, who "was not a problem for this game," in Reilly's estimation.
The line play may turn out to be the most important development from the opener, if the Owls progress. Temple went to bowl games after the 2010 and '11 seasons, led by a veteran offensive line. The line was young last season and it was hardly a coincidence that the Owls fell to 4-7.
His own scrambling, Reilly said, also stemmed partly from Notre Dame's defensive philosophy.
"They dropped a lot of guys in coverage," Reilly said, mentioning that he had "small, tight windows to throw into."
He did a pretty good job of that but realizes he missed a couple of opportunities, including in the end zone.
"I just love coaching the kid," Rhule said. "I'm out there yelling at him on the field, 'What are you doing?' And he's, 'Yes, sir.' He's a winner."
What was Rhule yelling about?
"There was one time, you're not supposed to simulate a snap, receiving the ball," Reilly said. "It could lead to a penalty."
So his coach yelled to him, "You would never do that in a practice. Why would you do it in a game?"
There also were some dropped balls by Owls receivers.
"Probably bad balls on my behalf," Reilly said.
His goal now, he said, is to manage the game a little better, work "much quicker."
Final grade for a debut quarterback: a solid B, not quite a B-plus, but way better than expected. (Graded on a curve: Rookie QB playing first game at Notre Dame, he gets an A.) He didn't win the game, but he managed it.
Reilly probably wouldn't argue the grade, realizing points were left on the field.
"We're going to get in the film room," Reilly said in a hallway outside the visiting locker room at Notre Dame Stadium. "I wanted to tonight, but we'll probably get back late. So tomorrow."
Contact Mike Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @jensenoffcampus on Twitter.