Doerer Has the Last Word

Jonathan Doerer drilled a 48-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining to lift Notre Dame to a come from behind 32-29 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday night. The Fighting Irish had trailed by 29-21 with four minutes left before Jack Coan came off the bench to lead two clutch scoring drives. His touchdown pass to Avery Davis and subsequent two point conversion to Kevin Austin tied the game at 29 with just over two minutes on the clock. Notre Dame got the ball back at their own 25 moments later before Coan marched them down the field to set up Doerer’s winning boot.

The game was a seesaw battle for the full 60 minutes. The Hokies started fast by racing to a 10-0 lead before the Irish elected to bench Coan in favor of Tyler Buchner. The freshman led Notre Dame on two scoring drives in the second period as the Irish took a 14-10 lead with 32 seconds left in the half. Tech was able to answer in the waning moments with a quick drive and improbable 52-yard career best field goal by John Parker Romo as time expired.

Trailing now by 14-13, the Hokies took the second half kickoff and drove quickly down the field. A touchdown pass was called back due to a penalty, but Parker Romo nailed another three pointer to put his team back in the lead by 16-14.

Tariq Bracy’s interception later in the third quarter gave the ball back to Notre Dame in scoring territory. Buchner led the Irish on a scoring drive that Kyren Williams finished with a scintillating ten-yard run for a 21-16 advantage.

Kyren Williams remains the heart of the Irish offense

Virginia Tech could not answer on its next series. Things looked bleak for the hosts as quarterback Paul Burmeister appeared to injure his shoulder and was helped off the field. However, the game flipped again moments later when Buchner was picked off near the sideline by Jermaine Waller, who returned it for the go ahead touchdown at the end of the third quarter. A two point conversion failed, so the Hokies held a slim 22-21 lead.

Buchner tried to make amends but he was largely ineffective on the next two Irish possessions. When he threw another interception midway through the fourth period, things looked bad for Notre Dame. Tech made matters worse for the visitors when Burmeister scrambled for a 19-yard touchdown.

The deficit for the Irish was now eight points with 3:55 on the clock. Coach Brian Kelly reinserted Coan into the game since his team had to throw it. The veteran carved up the Hokies with a series of crisp throws to multiple receivers before hitting Davis with 2:26 remaining. Coan then scrambled on the conversion attempt before launching a prayer that Austin plucked from the air to tie the game.

Notre Dame’s defense forced a quick three and out on the ensuing series. Coan went back to work and hit Braden Lenzy and George Takacs to set up Doerer’s winning kick. The Irish had come back twice during the evening to pull this one out, and it took nearly every player on their roster to do it.

Buchner was unshackled in this contest and allowed to throw the ball downfield. He looked like the future at times with a few outstanding throws but displayed poor judgment and accuracy in other instances that proved costly. Coan was harassed and tentative in the early going, but looked like Joe Montana when he reentered the game in the last four minutes.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions:

Which team will be most successful on third down? The Hokies converted several key third downs to frustrate Notre Dame. Cam Hart may be the best Irish cover corner, but his poor tackling nearly cost them the game. The Irish also failed on a third and one in the waning moments that made Doerer’s field goal longer than it should have been.

Can the Irish tackles handle Barno and Garbutt without significant help? Tech’s pass rushers dominated early, but Notre Dame’s offensive line adjusted and actually played well over the last three quarters.

Will the Hokies QB and receivers exploit the Irish back seven in coverage? Hokie wideout Tre Tucker proved to be a handful for the secondary, but the overall pass defense held up okay.

Which team will have the most productive running game? Both Burmeister and Buchner ran well for their respective teams but Williams was the difference for Notre Dame. His hard running lifted the Irish to a season best 173 yards on the ground.

Can Kevin Austin bounce back from another poor performance? Austin made a few clutch receptions including a beautiful 46-yard bomb from Buchner. He had no drops. His two-point conversion was the play of the night.

Which defensive front will best rattle the opposing quarterback? The Hokies started well, but Notre Dame’s rush was more effective over the last three periods.

How will the Irish handle their first hostile environment since Florida State? The appeared flat and out of sorts at the outset, but Buchner seemed to ignite them before Coan ultimately finished the job.

Is the ACC Network a better bargain than Peacock? The announcers were like nails on a chalk board. The Irish have to stop putting games on these second rate networks.

The team will have a bye next week before hosting the USC Trojans on October 23. Hopefully they will regain the services of star tight end Michael Mayer, who sat out tonight’s game due to a leg injury. Running back Chris Tyree also was forced to exit the game with a turf toe injury. Hopefully it won’t cause him to miss additional time. Freshman Logan Diggs filled in admirably for Tyree. He flashed a smooth running style and finished with 29 yards on six carries. Diggs also caught a 15-yard pass.

Otherwise, there are plenty of things to clean up on both sides of the ball. The defensive alignment with three down linemen has been a disaster and tackling is still a problem along the back seven. The offensive line is better but not what anyone would call “good”. Finally, the quarterback situation is no less muddled. I suspect we’ll see Coan continue to start with Buchner afforded more opportunities to run RPOs and attempt to improve his accuracy as a passer. It appears the coaching staff considers him to be the future at the position. His athleticism is undeniable, but I’m not sure my heart can take too many more nights like this one.

52 thoughts on “Doerer Has the Last Word

  1. Fred A Karam Jr says:

    So it’s nice to see a good victory at Virginia Tech, I live in Virginia and the Tech fans are the most obnoxious fans in college football. No ACC channel here because of issues with Xfinity, ND needs to stay away from such televised BS. So what happened to Drew Pyne, I like the upside of Buchner but he does not go through his progressions well at this point in his career. He had wide receivers open to his left on his pick six but telegraphed his throw. I know growing pains, but as I stated earlier what happened to Pyne? Did Hamilton get charged with Targeting?

    • No targeting on Hamilton. Freshman tight end Mitchell Evans was called for it though, as was Tech linebacker Dax Hollifield.

    • FYI, I also have xfinity which includes a few apps. The entire replay of the game can be viewed on youtube. Just search Virginia Tech.

      • Michael Boscarino says:

        ND has Zero say in what network and road game is televised on. Quit blaming them for something they cannot control.

          • Cubfansince1957 says:

            Don’t forget that the ACC deal gives us a bowl tie-in, plus it gives our bball programs and other sports programs (other than hockey) a home. Furthermore, the ACC institutions were seen as more of a fit with ND’s academic standing than the Big 10.

            I don’t have a problem with the ACC deal. We still get to pick our opponents for 7 games a year. Look at next year’s schedule which will probably be the hardest in the country.

          • Your handle says all I need to know about your willingness to settle for mediocrity. The football program was Notre Dame’s golden goose. Swarbrick sold it away for a bag of beans. It’s nice to know that Florida State and Clemson are academic peers.

  2. Irish in the South says:

    Congratulations to the Irish. We pull out another nail-biter. Somehow this team finds a way to win. Good summary, Vannie. Drew Pyne saw no action. I wonder what his future holds.

  3. John- your before and after columns bookended what was going to happen, and what happened, quite nicely. Well done, again.

    I have a question- do you think, somehow, the Irish call plays more suited to what Coan can really do, at the end of games rather than early on? Like perhaps keep him in a 2-min offense at all times?

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts you want to share.

    • Thanks, Jay. In the beginning, Notre Dame wanted to establish the run and called plays accordingly. Unfortunately this led to third and long situations where the immobile Coan was a sitting duck. He also hesitated a couple of times to release the ball. I didn’t see the coverage so it may have been justified.

      A couple things happened at the end of the game, The line blocked much better and Coan got rid of the ball on time to receivers that were able to get open. The play designs were also very good. Coan’s attempt to scramble on that two point conversion was almost comical but it had the luck of the Irish.

  4. YES!!! Great comeback by the “Fighting Irish “!! They displayed true grit and heart!! Now they have a much needed bye and get ready for the Trojans!!

      • Come on John are you serious! I am with ND win or lose!! It is impossible to go on this board when they lose with all this nonsense negative talk about ND. Such as get rid of the coaches, lousy play calling, etc….Even in victory you can’t seem to enjoy it and always find things to down grade the wins!!!

        I have posted numerous times after a ND loss and you know it John. I am a true ND fan that is delighted when they win and miserable when they lose. Unlike you who thrives to say negative things about the team! I can’t believe a ND alum like you could be such a downer on our beloved football team!!

        • Just curious, do you wear a cheerleading outfit when you post crap like this?

          “This board” wants to see Notre Dame win national championships, and we have 12 years of evidence that the best this coaching staff can do is run up wins against tomato can schedules while getting pantsed by quality programs. If you watched this game and thought, “excellent, this shows us we’re on our way to a title”, you’re a mindless fanboy who people like Jack Swarbrick absolutely love.

          • Just curious, did you graduate from ” Negative U “? You come across like you don’t appreciate the wins and that you just can’t wait for ND to lose so you can bad mouth the team and the coaching staff! I guess you get pleasure out of that.

            I want ND to win championships just as much as any one!! If you feel you can do a better job than the current coaching staff, why don’t you be the head coach Mike!!

          • If you really “want to see ND win championships as much as anyone”, you should be dissatisfied with this staff and realize that if a limited coach like Brian Kelly can get ND to the playoffs, a number of other coaches who are more skilled can do it as well. Just because he’s better than the three nitwits who preceded him doesn’t mean ND can’t and shouldn’t do better.

          • You know what I think? I think the reason you get so exercised about “Negative U” and all that crap is deep down, you realize we’re right. Kelly is a mope who has fundamentally changed what ND is, and not for the better — I find it ironic people who throw around words like “Our Lady’s University” pledge fealty to the guy who eliminated the pre-game Mass — and is not going to coach an ND team to a National Title, but because the AD won’t let him go, will keep us in this John-Cooper-esque miasma for as long as he wants to be here. But you can’t bring yourself to criticize anything about “our beloved football team”, so you lash out at people like us who call things as we see them.

          • As long as there is such passion for the glory years of Old Notre Dame, long-distant echoes can be heard and hope remains alive.

          • Fred A Karam Jr says:

            How many teams who have won national championships in the last 3 decades of college football that have the academic requirements that Notre Dame requires….NONE. The last time we won one was due to the administration allowing Coach Holtz to allow prop 48 players to be allowed entrance into the University, which by the way most of those athletes ended up getting their degree. This is an old argument that really needs to be addressed, because we can’t compete with the SEC teams at this point and no matter how high our recruiting classes are ranked it’s just not happening!

          • I assume you realize Brian Kelly has been given more academic admissions breaks than the three guys who preceded him combined. I also assume you realize there was only one Prop 48 player on the football team ever, so it doesn’t mean what you think it does.

          • Responding to The Obvious: Yes, I agree with you. But, with approximately half of the U.S. population older than 40, which is the approximate age you need to be to remember Notre Dame’s last national championship, the Swarbrick-Kelly kingdom-preserving team pushes those echoes a little bit further into story books that have to be read, not remembered, with each passing day. We need people like Barrett to stop applauding like trained seals the close victories against much less talented programs and instead start demanding a return to Notre Dame’s historical standards.

          • You’re right, and the teams of the last decade do not resemble the powerhouses of the Holtz and Parseghian years. The current administration has essentially abandoned hope of that happening so they’ve dumbed down the schedule to achieve ten win seasons (the ACC deal is a big part of that) and keep the money flowing in. They’ve also managed to dampen expectations among the fan base while ruining the game day experience. Only the older alums like myself are not content with their strategy of perfumed mediocrity, but we’ll die out eventually.

          • I am not sure about just 1 Prop 48 player that played for ND. I believe there were 3 and 2 of those players were big time starters on the 1988 championship team.

          • Tony Rice was the only Prop 48 player on the 1988 team. John Foley was a Prop 48 player admitted in 1986 with Rice, but he suffered a career-ending injury in a 1987 bowl game and did not play after that.

            Chris Zorich was not a Prop 48 player. Any claims to the contrary are erroneous.

  5. Jordan Martin says:

    From the ashes of that horrible loss to Michigan two years ago ND began a 16 game winning streak with a comeback win over ….. Virginia Tech. Let’s hope history repeats itself.

  6. Well ND won and there did appear to be some improvement on the O-line based on the replays I saw and the final stats but it sounded like the D is still giving up big chunk plays one too many times. It looks like the O-line only gave up two sacks. I didn’t see the game and could only watch highlights.

    Tech looked to have one of their better offensive outings of the year and the Notre Dame D really didn’t take much away from them or hold them to season lows in any category.

    Pyne deserved to get the start based on his performance against Wisconsin and Cincy but he got shafted. Unless there’s things we don’t know from a fan’s standpoint it sure looks like politics and favoritism is driving the QB decision. Since you can never get a straight answer out of a politician like Kelly it forces us to speculate and assume the worst.

  7. I also wondered why Pyne was not given a chance. I think his ability to make reads and the easy passes are much better than Buchner. Clearly Buchner has potential but is not there yet. Too many poor reads and poor passes.

    The missed tackle by Hart on the first drive by Tech set the tone for the whole second half. It was third and long and the receiver caught the ball two yards short of the line to make and Hart tried to bowl him over rather than wrap him up. He missed and a three and out for Tech’s opening drive went with it. If the Irish lose that is the negative play of the game.

    Sorry but I am not that impressed with the Irish defense and its calls.

    • Irish in the South says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pyne get snaps against USC. Kelly will need the 2 young QBs next year, and he seems to like to stir up competition between players.

  8. Am I the only who thinks Kelly showed deadful clock management at the end of the game? Okay, the kid drilled a 48-yard field goal in front of all those flashlights — a clutch kick, to be sure. But Kelly is taking his changes on a 48-yard field goal, which is no sure thing when the Irish easily could have gotten 10 or 15 yards closer.

    • The end of game clock management went to hell when ND failed to get a first down on a third and one play. There would have been time to run more plays to get closer and call timeout for the field goal with a few seconds left had they converted there.

  9. Caroline’s Dad says:

    Always happier after a win than a loss, but it also feels as though ND Football is much farther away from the ultimate goal than anyone wants

  10. There is a lot to comment on regarding the play on both sides of the ball.

    However here are my top 3:
    – It is nice to see ND come out on top in close games like this. How many times in the past have we seen Kelly coached teams find a way to lose a game like this.
    – I too wondered why Pyne was not the go to guy off the bench. Is it internal politics are is there more going on behind the scenes we as fans are not aware of?
    – Buchner may be the QB of the future but he was way off on most of his throws.

  11. The players on the team show real grit, irrespective of the mediocrity of the coaching staff. They pulled themselves together and got the win. That should be a point of pride for them and a real bonding experience.

    “Coan was harassed and tentative in the early going, but looked like Joe Montana when he reentered the game in the last four minutes.”

    A great, and deserved, statement about Coan. He is capable and would be even better with an OL that could protect him. Unfortunately, if Coan was trying to get life insurance, even Bill Gates would not be able to pay the premiums. The OL needs a better coach and the team needs a better OC/ DC/ HC.

    The SC game will be interesting.

    I too, wonder what happened to Pyne.

  12. Thanks for your hard work and insights, John. I love it when the Irish win, but I tire of them playing down to the level of their opponents. Our team is loaded with talent, but halfway through the season we are still trying to figure out which quarterback will struggle least behind an underperforming line. I feel relieved the phony ‘Knute Rockne’ talk has died down, but if you want to win championships and get a gate named for you at Notre Dame Stadium, make your opponents respect and fear you! It’s the universal language of success.

  13. I’ll give Coan credit for being put in a tough spot and coming through after sitting on the bench for almost 3 quarters. Kelly whining about what gets written is a bad look though. I can’t imagine him coaching in the pros with that sensitivity. Pyne still feels like the best option for this team but it seems unlikely after the Coan led comeback.

    The bye came at the right time. Should be healthy and reenergized for the Trojans. Outside of Cincinnati, these next two teams have the most talent on their schedule despite their records. I could see either of these next two ending with losses. We’re in for nail bitters all season long. Let’s hope we keep winning them.

  14. Another thought, however unlikely, is that Mr. Pyne stays perennially in Brian Kelly’s doghouse for one reason or another. How badly do you want to win, Brian?

  15. Here is the history of the true Notre Dame fan. I started followint the Irsh in about 1942, (Im ’89 years old) when they were playing the Great Lakes Navalk Training team and got the hell beat out of them by Great Lakes tam headed by Six Yard Sitko and many other future Irsh players. Notre Dame hired Frank Leahy from Boston College and he immediately recruited everyone he could get from the Great Lakes team and went on the 32 game win streak. Those were great years that ended when I was a Freshman in 1950 and Purdue with future NFL Champion,, Len Dawson kicked our butt. Leahy retire and I went throught the Terry Brennan one year coching fiasco,Don Devore, NFL retread Kuharch, and ND finally got smart and hired Ara rom Northwetern. Ara took the same players of rhe previous years and repositioned them to the places that they could play and won 9 games in his first year. It would have been ten, but the first of the famous South California, Pac Ten officials called the famous “holding call” right before the haf timel and we lost that game. I wnt through the Ara era and went to the 1973 Champioship in the Sugar Bowl in the Tulane Stamium’s lst game. Alabalma had us pinned inside of the ten yard line ane Alabama expected Clemons to throw a pass to Casper. Instead he .threw the famous one play career of Robin Weber o get Notre Dame out of that jam and they went on to win. After retired we went through the Dan Devine era, who won one National Championship, before her retire. Then we went though the high school coach, who’ name I gladly forget to the Lew Holtaz error, which was the best here waas with his dynamic antics. After heleft beaue of his recruiting demands wee rejected y the sme group we have today. Again a parade of poor coachs, although O’Reilly would have bdone a good job, but Notre Dame couldn’t allow themselves to hire a High School graduate, event thoughh he had a good record at Geogia Tech. Thne Willingham, Daies to Kelly. So I’e seen it all. Actually, Kelly is not a bad coach, he just lack the emotional fire and brimstone of a Lou Saban. is recruiting is decent.because there are only so many leel five lyers and. lets face it, not all of them are successful.You can coach 3 and 4 level players to do a good job and Kelly has done a decent job of this, in spit of some of his assitan coaches leave something to be desired. I put my 1973 custom ND shirt on every game and suffer, sceam, froth at the mouth like of Notre Dame fans. Since I was a football player, I try to be constructive in my team analysis. I question Kelly’s call at time and what appears to be lack of emotion from him and his staff. All this being said, doesn’t change anything. I take any win no matter how we acheive it and suffer through every loss, but I will always bleed “Green & Gold”.

    In closing, just think of the hell that Lou Saben is going to have on his staff and players after loosing to Texas A & M, who lost to Arkansas. Talk about an emotional coach! Wow, tis could be an interesting season, I’ll pine

    Rabid Fan for Pyne, and go down emotionally like all of you.

    Just sing the Notre Dame fight song through thick and thin.

    • Great post. Just one small correction. The phantom call in the 1964 game against USC was on a 1-yard TD run on a first and goal play by Joe Kantor that occurred in the second half. I don’t recall what the score was at the time, but it doesn’t matter. The call was on one of our tackles, Bob Meeker. The film showed that Meeker never even touched a defender, much less held. We ended up not scoring on that drive because of that bogus call. Moreover, this outrageous call cost us the game, as having 24 points would have sealed the deal. There was another blown call with less than two minutes left in the game that also cost us the win. On a 3rd down play, with ND leading 17-13, and USC on around the ND 15-yard line, the great Alan Page had the USC QB in a bear hug with his arms pinned to his sides and the QB had the ball squirt forward out of his hands and ND recovered the fumble. But incredibly, the refs called it an incomplete pass. But if it was a pass, it was intentional grounding, with a 15-yard penalty and a loss of down, as there was no eligible Trojan receiver anywhere in sight. If either of those two calls had been made correctly, ND wins, finishes with a perfect 10-0 record, and has another National Championship. Thinking of that game still gets me angry 57 years later.

  16. Does anyone know Chris Tyree’s injury status? I’ve looked around various websites and can’t find any update.

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