Although Notre Dame needed just 2 minutes, 27 seconds to gain 164 yards on six plays and take a 14-0 lead with 10 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter, the Owls, clearly jittery early on, felt they contributed to their own defeat.
The Owls fell behind by 21-6 because Notre Dame was able to exploit their secondary. Twice on scoring drives, Irish wide receiver DaVaris Daniels beat the Owls' best cornerback, Anthony Robey, on touchdown passes of 32 yards.
"They max-protected and they threw a post," Rhule said of the first score. "He didn't stay high on it. So the next time they threw a corner post. So he got high on it and they threw a post corner. They max-protected and they made it a one-on-one. Their kid made the play and our kid didn't."
Connor Reilly, making his first collegiate start (23 of 46 for 228 yards), led the Owls on a nine-play, 78-yard drive late in the second quarter that concluded with Temple's lone score, a 1-yard run by Kenny Harper.
However, freshman kicker Jim Cooper had his extra-point attempt blocked. Cooper also lamented missing a pair of field goal attempts from 32 and 43 yards.
"The snap was perfect, the hold was great, and the blocking was impeccable," Cooper said. "I just didn't hit them right. It came down to me and I didn't make them."
Playing efficient football in the first half, the Irish responded to Temple's only touchdown with another heart-wrenching play.
Taking possession with 1:01 remaining in the half, Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees needed just one play to find tight end Troy Niklas over the middle for what turned out to be a 66-yard touchdown that helped the Irish take a 21-6 lead into the locker room.
Rees, starting his 19th game, played very well, completing 16 of 23 attempts for a career-high 346 yards and three touchdowns. Rees passed for 268 yards in the first half alone.
"Obviously there were a lot of questions coming in whether or not we could push the ball downfield," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "I think we answered a lot of questions right away with his ability to push the ball downfield. I think he showed patience. So I was pleased with his performance, and he knows he can play better."
Reilly had similar thoughts about the Owls, who open play in the American Athletic Conference next week at home against Houston.
"We got settled and started doing some good things after the rough start," Reilly said. "We will go and look at film. We'll do the things we need to do to improve. And we will."
Contact John N. Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.