For months it seemed way off in the distance. Not anymore.
Because a week from Saturday at the famed Golden Dome in South Bend, Indiana, Temple-Notre Dame finally becomes a reality.
First-year coach Matt Rhule and the rest of the Owls can’t wait.
"We’re excited," said sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich, Temple’s leading tackler (101) and Big East Rookie of the Year. "Every person’s amped up. We can’t wait to get out there and fly around and show rest of the country what Temple football’s all about."
No one’s quite sure what the 2013 Owls will be about, as Rhule inherits 14 starters from a 4-7 squad after Steve Addazio unexpectedly bolted for Boston College. Rhule is still trying to figure out which man will be running the offense for a Temple team that will be throwing the ball much more than before.
For now that appears to be junior Connor Reilly. His only action to this point has been holding on field goals and extra points, and he’s being pushed by holdover Juice Granger and freshman P.J. Walker.
"Coach Addazio’s offense really didn’t suit me,’’ said Reilly, a walk-on outfielder for Temple's baseball team. "Coach Rhule’s offense gave me a new life, and I’ve blossomed from there. It’s gonna be a great experience just to be there. Notre Dame is a historical program. We know they’ll be a big crowd. But we’re gonna prepare like it’s just another game."
Of course, that isn’t quite true. Even Rhule, who served as Tom Coughlan’s assistant offensive line coach last year, is counting the days.
"It’s special for us,’’ said Rhule, who says the transition back to the college game (six previous years as a Temple assistant under Al Golden and Addazio) has gone pretty much as he expected.
"When you’re playing at the next level, you want to do well," he said, "but there’s a lot to get done before we think about Notre Dame.’’
Rhule is still trying to finalize his depth chart, particularly at running back, where freshman Zaire Williams has the edge over Jamie Gilmore.
"I saw some guys who could help us in our last scrimmage,’’ said Rhule. "We got more clarity at running back and we’re setting the depth charts. "There have been some surprises, both good and bad. But, overall it’s been what I thought it would be.’’
Preparation time for that game once months away is nearly complete. Matt Rhule and the Temple Owls can all but see the Fighting Irish taking the field. It all becomes reality on Aug. 31.