Sep 4, 2013, 9:18 PM EDT
Craig Chval, the official 2013 football beat writer for the Strong & True blog, is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of the year Craig will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and previews of each game. You can follow Craig (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers.
In the middle of Notre Dame’s 28-6 victory over Temple, there was a moment of quiet terror in the crowd. Like in any dire circumstance, my life was flashing before my eyes. From Tennessee in 2001 to Alabama in 2013, all my witnessed Notre Dame losses (18, but who’s counting?) were cycling through my head.
Hyperbole aside, there was an instant of slight concern a minute before halftime. After an electric start to go up 14-0 in the first five minutes, the Irish had been held scoreless for the next 24 while Temple had pulled within eight points.
Fortunately, the scare was about as short-lived as Joss Whedon’s Firefly. In a burst of speed that would make Kyle Rudolph blush, tight end Troy Niklas scored on the drive’s first play, eluding defenders on a seam route to put the Irish up 21-6 at the half with a 66-yard touchdown.
“I didn’t necessarily think I would outrun him – I didn’t think I wouldn’t – but I definitely hit a gear that I wasn’t positive I had,” he said.
“Just looking at [the Rudolph] play, I think I’m much faster than Kyle,” he laughed.
Speaking of Rudolph, Niklas has enormous footsteps to fill as an Irish tight end, and I’m not just talking about the Vikings coveted Pro Bowl MVP. From Anthony Fasano to Mackey Award winner Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame has consistently fielded elite talent at the position.
“That’s obviously something I’d like to be a part of one day, but I’m not there yet,” Niklas said. “I’m just concerned about today and tomorrow and the next day, just trying to get better. If I do that, hopefully I can be in that group.”
Recruited as an offensive lineman, the junior has also seen time as an outside linebacker before moving to tight end last year.
“I’ve pretty much played every position throughout my years playing football, but I would definitely say playing all those positions helped me learn things easier,” he said. “I was able to look at some of my film last year when we played Michigan, and it’s just night and day. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in one year listening to your coaches and apply the techniques that they teach you.”
It’s easy to see where Niklas is coming from with the type of play he made on Saturday. In really the game’s only tense moment, he delivered a knockout punch worthy of his 270-pound frame.
“We knew we needed a score. We’ve run that play a ton of times in practice,” he said. “It was a pretty awesome play for all of us because we didn’t have to march down the field and get into a two-minute situation right at the end of the half.”
Instead of going into the half with a one-score lead and the momentum with Temple, Niklas and the Irish took control of the game, cruising to its first victory of the season. Next up: Notre Dame’s last foreseeable game at the Big House.
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