PHILADELPHIA (AP) — DeShone Kizer hit Will Fuller with a 17-yard touchdown pass with 2:09 left in the game, KeiVarae Russell picked off a pass to end the last threat and No. 9 Notre Dame escaped with a 24-20 victory over No. 21 Temple on Saturday night.
The biggest game in the history of Temple football lived up to the billing. The Owls (7-1) pushed the Fighting Irish (7-1) to the brink and took the lead with 4:45 left on a 36-yard field goal by Austin Jones. But Kizer came right back with a long scoring drive, capped by the TD to his star receiver.
Then the Notre Dame defense stepped up. Temple’s P.J. Walker went deep down the right side, but Russell cut underneath the throw and made a diving pick.
Not until the very last play, when Kizer dropped the ball, picked it up and then threw it away to kill the clock, did the Irish get to celebrate.
Kizer finished with 299 yards passing and a 79-yard touchdown run.
The Fighting Irish had chances to distance themselves from the Owls, but four red-zone trips produced only 10 points in the first three quarters against a defense that ranked eighth in the country.
The Owls entered the fourth quarter down seven. All they could have wanted. After a targeting penalty in the end zone by Notre Dame’s Elijah Shumate gave Temple a new set of downs, the Owls got it down to the 1 on fourth down. Coach Matt Rhule decided to go for it and Jahad Thomas made a crisp cut to turn the corner and tie the game with 10:51 left.
And there it was: Temple, laughingstock for so long, leading the most famous college football team in the world on Halloween night in front of a national television audience. The Owls fans were making noise and dreaming big.
With 5:12 left in the game and Temple in field-goal range, security at Lincoln Financial Field started lining up metal parade barricades behind the end zone to keep the Temple student section from rushing the field.
Soon afterward, Jones’ boot gave Temple its first lead.
A result that just a few years ago would have been unimaginable, Temple beating Notre Dame, was just an Owl stop or two from becoming a reality.
Notre Dame would not let it happen.
Kizer hooked up with Alize Jones on a 45-yard completion that got Notre Dame into the red zone again, first down at the 17. Two plays later, Fuller got behind the secondary in the end zone and Kizer fired a 17-yard strike to make it 24-20.
Temple came in 7-0 for the first time in school history, playing as a ranked team against a ranked team for the first time ever. This was an unprecedented weekend for college football in Philadelphia. ESPN “GameDay” drew a big and loud crowd to Independence Mall. The Phillie Phanantic was the guest picker, using Lee Corso as his straight man.
Temple used dozens of buses to transport students from campus to the “GameDay” site before day broke. Temple was the main event on a fall Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Owls, with a lot of help from Notre Dame’s fans, filled Lincoln Financial Field with a record crowd of 69,280 for a Temple game. Tailgaters packed the parking lots. For at least one day, the Big Ten and SEC had nothing on Temple.
The Owls had already knocked off Penn State at the Linc to open the season, so there was no reason for Temple to feel overmatched. But the Fighting Irish are a different breed and they showed it on the first drive of the game.
The Irish marched 74 yards with Kizer, Fuller and C.J. Prosise doing most of the work against a Temple defense that is the team’s strength. Kizer finished with a 4-yard keeper to make it 7-0.
Trouble for Temple? Nope. The Owls settled in and got a field goal and a red-zone interception of Kizer by Praise Martin-Oguike. Temple marched 94 yards for a touchdown, Walker hitting Brandon Shippen from 12 yards out to make it 10-7 with 6:17 left.
A few minutes later, the lead was gone. Several Temple defenders converged on Prosise, but Kizer kept the ball and found a wide-open lane to sprint 79 yards for a touchdown.
Another red-zone interception by Temple, this time by star linebacker Tyler Matakevich on a deflected ball, kept the score 14-10 Irish going into halftime.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.