Irish Edge Toledo in Wild One

Notre Dame lost an eight point lead in the fourth quarter before rebounding in the last two minutes to outlast the upset-minded Toledo Rockets by 32-29 on Saturday. Jack Coan hit Michael Mayer for an 18-yard score with 1:09 remaining to retake the lead, and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa ended Toledo’s last ditch hopes moments later with a strip sack of Carter Bradley. Linebacker JD Bertrand recovered the ball and the Irish escaped despite surrendering 14 points on turnovers.

Both teams deployed a two quarterback rotation with positive results. Coan began the game for Notre Dame and ended it by engineering touchdown drives capped by passes to Mayer. He also threw a pick six to Rocket cornerback Chris McDonald that gave the visitors a 16-14 halftime advantage.

Freshman Tyler Buchner made a successful debut for the Irish. He led a touchdown drive in each half and flashed his athleticism with crisp runs and sharp passes. In the first series of the second period from the Notre Dame 4 yard line, Buchner’s runs of 26 and 11 yards ignited the team. Two plays later, Kyren Williams scored from 43 yards out to put the Irish ahead by 14-6.

Buchner came through again early in the fourth period with Notre Dame nursing a 17-16 lead. He kept the ball on a run-pass option and rolled to his left before firing a strike to Chris Tyree along the sideline. Tyree did the rest by outrunning the defenders into the end zone for a 24-16 advantage.

The Irish did not hold onto the lead for long. As was the case at Florida State, Notre Dame’s defense took the field after an offensive touchdown and surrendered a long run from scrimmage. Bryant Koback did the honors for Toledo with a 67-yard burst to the Irish 18. Moments later, Koback took a shovel pass from Bradley into the end zone to cut the lead to 24-22. A two point conversion pass attempt fell incomplete.

With nearly eight minutes remaining, the Irish began what appeared to be a game-clinching drive. Coan and Buchner both contributed as the offense marched downfield. Unfortunately, Williams was stripped of the ball in Toledo territory and the Rockets recovered. Bradley guided them downfield with clutch passes as the clock ran down under two minutes. Toledo faced a third down and one at the Notre Dame 26, needing only a field goal to retake the lead. Coach Jason Candle inserted backup quarterback Dequan Finn into the game to run this critical play.

The Irish crowded the line of scrimmage, and Finn faked a handoff into the middle of the scrum before pulling the ball back and sprinting untouched around left end for the score. Suddenly, Notre Dame trailed by 29-24 with just 1:35 remaining and only one timeout left. Oddly, if Finn had taken a knee a couple yards from the end zone, the Rockets could have drained the clock and kicked a field goal as time expired to win by 25-24.

Given a chance to pull out the win, Coan and wide receiver Kevin Austin immediately rose to the occasion by hooking up for a 36-yard pass down the sideline. A pair of penalties against Toledo in pass coverage helped matters along, but Coan suffered a dislocated finger on his throwing hand in the process. As the referees were marking off a pass interference penalty, Coan rushed to the sidelines where an Irish trainer pulled his finger into place.

On the next play, the veteran quarterback calmly threw an 18-yard strike down the middle to Mayer for the go-ahead score. The two-point conversion was successful when Avery Davis took a handoff from Coan and scrambled a bit before hitting Williams in the end zone. The drive covered 75 yards in a mere 26 seconds.

Toledo needed only a field goal to tie the game. They had 1:09 left and all three timeouts, but they got off to a rocky start when they were flagged for a personal foul on the ensuing Irish kickoff. Bradley was unable to engineer a first down from deep in his own end, and Tagovailoa-Amosa made sure there were no Hail Mary’s for the Rockets.

The Irish have yet to impress anyone, but the victory bought them another week to iron out their offensive line play and address untimely defensive breakdowns. The quarterbacks suffered six sacks and faced numerous pressures from the Toledo front. Left tackle Michael Carmody, who replaced injured starter Blake Fisher last week, when down in the first half with an ankle injury. Tosh Baker was the next man in, and he struggled to block the veteran Rocket pass rushers.

The defense was gashed on Koback’s long run and fooled badly on Finn’s scoring run. They had five sacks and forced one critical turnover in the last minute. Toledo won the turnover battle by a 3-1 margin.

Let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions for additional information:

Will Toledo’s two quarterback system keep Notre Dame off balance? The Rockets did a good job and realized positive results without disrupting the flow of their offense.

Can Notre Dame fix its running game and spring Williams or Tyree for big chunk gains? The ground game managed only 132 yards, but the 43-yarder by Williams was nice to see. Buchner was the team’s second leading ball carrier with 68 yards on seven carries.

Will Coan follow his debut performance with another solid outing? Coan was pressured all day and the pick-six was a poor read, but he was a rock in the final minute when his team needed him most.

Which Irish freshmen or newcomers to the lineup will distinguish themselves? Buchner was a pleasant surprise. He added a three for three passing performance for 78 yards and a score to his rushing total, and looked like he belonged out there. Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles each caught one pass. Linebacker Prince Kollie missed the game after a positive COVID test.

Will Notre Dame win the turnover battle again this week? No, and it almost cost them the game.

Can the Irish avoid any more serious injuries this week? Carmody was not moving well in his walking boot and may miss some time. This doesn’t bode well for a line that is one more injury away from total chaos.

How many people will curse the Peacock sign-up process after 30 minutes of frustration? Not many, but most of them would rather have their $4.99 back right now.

Will another reporter dare to ask Brian Kelly about his team’s execution? Kelly admitted afterward that he needs to coach better, which may have preempted beat reporters from calling for his own execution.

One has to wonder how long the Irish can stave off defeat with such underwhelming performances. Next Saturday’s home date with Purdue should not be too difficult, but we felt that way these past two weeks as well.

42 thoughts on “Irish Edge Toledo in Wild One

  1. Charles crawford says:

    It is tough to Pollo loving opposing players and five officials. Last week they denied Notre Dame a first down on the fourth town pass and you need Notre Dame Carter a 15 yard penalty on roughing the pastor that was clearly a 15 yard penalty. This week we had a clear interception near the end zone which was denied by the officials. When will these people be held accountable

  2. Lou Holtz used to say that a team improved the most from game one to game two. If that is the case the Irish are in trouble.

    Coan is a pocket passer with no pocket half of the time. No knock on him but as we saw from Buchner the Irish will have to have a more mobile quarterback and scheme to both allow the run game to develop, as well as, give the quarterback some time to find talented receivers downfield. The offensive line is simply a glaring weakness at this point that can’t open holes for the running backs or protect the quarterback,

    This team has some serious holes and I am afraid this will be a rebuilding year on both defense and offense. Not sold on the new defensive coordinator either (flash backs to Van Gorder). Kelly even said after the game they have to simplify the defensive scheme,

    • They don’t have to simplify the so-called “defensive scheme”. Freeman needs to stop using a ouija board to construct defensive “schemes” and go back to basics, i.e. how to tackle and how to know and keep your assignments.

  3. Have Peacock thru Xfinity. Bad experience. Completely missed Buckner td pass because a commercial was still playing. Game was over on my son’s peacock app, while my peacock tv hadn’t gotten to the fumble by Toledo to seal the game.

  4. Peacock was a money grab and disaster. I know a lot of people who could not watch the game, especially older people who have no idea how to get it to work. Swarbrick should reassess that crap. It was BS. As for the game, this team has a lot of work , and I mean a lot of work ahead of them. Don’t dismiss Purdue. They are 2-0 and putting up a ton of points.

  5. Bright spots:
    Buckner, Buchner, Buchner, + we WON!
    1) compared to last year: a mess – can’t count on D getting a stop after O. scores/ Big play giveaway, tackling,
    slightly better, but still poor.
    2) O. Line – QB’s are running for their life on pass/ runners are hitting a wall./ total overhaul needed.
    3) injuries @ O. Line and linebacker – horrible!
    Team will be lucky to go 9-3 w/ a mediocre bowl (could get to 10-3)
    probable losses: Cincinnati, USC & VA Tech

    • It looks bad after two games. Only one game left before the Badgers. If they have a lot of trouble again this week we are probably looking at an 8-4 season.

  6. Did ND let Toledo score with 1:35 remaining? If Finn sits down on the 5 yard they run out the clock, kick a field goal and win!!! Lucky for ND

    • but then again…the way the defense was so poorly playing who knows, but as my old mentor used to say “better lucky than smart:”

    • There is no way that ND allowed that touchdown to happen. It was a 3rd and 1 from the ND 26 yard line, with a little under two minutes to play. A stop there and Toledo would have had to attempt a field goal, and there is no guarantee they would have made it. It was simply a well designed play that completely fooled the defense, which was stacked at the line of scrimmage to stop the run. I saw someone else on another board who did not suggest that ND allowed that TD, but stated that the runner should have fallen down short of the end zone. But of course, even if that occurred, there is no assurance that Toledo would have scored.

      These are coulda, woulda, shoulda arguments, augmented in certain cases with with pure speculation. And two can play that game. For example, if Williams doesn’t fumble the ball away on what was shaping up to be another TD drive for ND, the Irish could have won the game going away. Indeed, as in any game, there are a number of plays and referee calls (or no calls) throughout the game that if changed would or could have impacted the score and the final result. But all of that is irrelevant. All that counts is what actually happened and the final score.

        • With the offensive line injuries and overall poor performance, Buchner has to play a significant amount now. Coan had his moments and was gutsy at the end but he’s so immobile that they have no chance against a good team with him and this years line. Come on Kelly, don’t wait for a loss to have the guts to make the change.

          • Irish in the South says:

            Offensive line must improve before Coan will be better. In the final drive, his experience was the difference; but as a pocket passer, he will need better protection. If he doesn’t get it, Buckner would be the better option.

  7. Fred A Karam Jr says:

    The lack of tackling, and weak at the rover, and poor cornerback play is the reason the defense is struggling. Not sold on Houston Griffith he has missed too many assignments and gets faked to crash the middle as the back breaks to his inside, very poor! The very well recruited offensive line is terrible, lets be honest, is it poor coaching or poor play who knows, just terrible!

  8. Jeff Quinn needs to go. Running game is non existent and inconsistent the past 3 years. Couldn’t run with an exceptionally experienced line the prior two years and now with all the inexperience, it is a diaster. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out who is the problem. Make a change now.

  9. ND won ugly again which is better than losing but man do they have some problems that need fixing. Brian Kelly really needs to publish a step by step guide to winning ugly.

    The offensive line is a mess and the defensive performance was Van Gorderesque for the second week in a row. Marcus Freeman should be forced to wear a VanGorder mustache and goatee until the defense improves.

    Jack Coan is learning the hard way that ND’s 2021 offensive line isn’t as reliable as the big, immovable oaks he had at Wisconsin. I still don’t understand how ND consistently recruits 4 star lineman yet they consistently underperform. Either the guys they recruit are overrated or there’s a coaching problem.

    I believe ND is now staring at a 4 or 5 loss season which is almost assured if they suffer any more injuries especially on the O-line. Florida St. got upset at home by FCS team Jacksonville St. so that takes the shine off of that victory.

    • They underperform???? They’ve had one of the best olines in cfb, for awhile. This is a down year, but to say they consistently underperform, is a big over statement!!

      • They’re a great O-line when they play average to subpar defenses. They struggled mightily against Georgia in 2017 and got dominated at Miami in 2017 en route to a 41-8 loss. Then they struggled against Michigan in 2018 and in the CFB playoffs. Then they couldn’t run the ball against Georgia or Michigan again in 2019 and they lost both games getting shellacked by Michigan. They’ve had struggles in short yardage situations throughout the Kelly era.

  10. John Kelleher '67 says:

    Bad news, Good news. I remember instantly thinking to myself………Bad new UT just scored TD, Good news, they left us with 1:51 on the clock. 🙂

  11. First the good news; we’re 2-0. Now the bad news; there’s ten games left. I thought we had defeated a talented FS team. They lost again yesterday. And Toledo sure looked dangerous to me. Without a bevy and a plethora of penalties (albeit deserved) by the Rockets in that last minute and 30, who knows how it would have ended. I truly hope there’s an exception to the accepted rule that a team shows the most improvement after their first outing, else, as my Irish grandmother would often exclaim, “Saints preserve us”. Hope to see such next week when the Boilermakers come to South Bend. And we’ll definitely need to see more of Tyler Buchner (including throwing the ball down field as well), and, please, no more monster big plays (at least two yesterday) allowed, else, adios amigos.

  12. On a more elevated and/or humorous (yeah, these two go together) note: I was really happy to see a Pac-12 team defeat that mid-west F-Ball factory, Ohio State (any OS team from Urban Meyer or later). It was a great game watch until it was pre-empted in the fourth quarter for the Texas A&M / Colorado game. Had to switch to CBS Sports on the Internet for the PBP. Michigan actually has a real chance this year. Miami (of Florida) almost lost to Appalachian State (was routing for them big time), Texas got mopped by Arkansas, and USC was mopped by Stanford. BTW, USC’s kicker was ejected on the opening kick because of a targeting call. Go figure! I actually do feel for Clay Helton, but that moment has already passed.

  13. Boilers will bring a lot of momentum to South Bend after their 49-0 win over mighty UConn. BTW, on a serious note, it is good to see Notre Dame and Purdue play again. Used to be a longstanding rivalry when they played every year. Irish lead the series 56-26-2.

  14. I know there were a lot of negatives coming out of yesterday’s game but I choose to look at these positives: 1- The Irish won. How many times in years past have we seen a Kelly coached team find a way to lose a close game like this one? 2-The diversity of their recruiting. If the Irish were forced to go with Coan at qb all game, the outcome would have been a lot uglier which would have included a loss. I am not knocking the kid but he is a pocket passer without the luxury of having an offensive line that can create a pocket for him and allow him time to make his reads. Having a Buckner type at qb gave the offense another weapon and allowed the Irish to roll out with a threat of a run or pass. 3-The defense is quick and I like the way they swarm to the ball BUT they have to stop being gashed by plays that yield huge gains.

  15. Offense: OLINE pathetic, Rees play calling is awful, the pick six thrown by Coan was youth football at best

    Defense: Weak LB play, too thin in the defensive backfield, and the scheme is terrible

    Any ND fan optimistic after two weeks is kidding themselves

    • Mike NY,

      If you read all of my previous posts, you’ll see I TOTALLY agree with you as I have echoed
      many of the same sentiments!!!!

  16. Defense giving up big plays is about technique and assignment. Our D is aggressive (good) but at inopportune times not good on assignment. On that last Toledo keeper, someone has outside contain, but went inside. Those things are fixable.

    ND needs to invest in the best O-line coach that will take a college job. Quinn is not ‘that guy’.

  17. The 1st 2 games have been absurd but BK has said – accurately – that this team is still finding itself, which is true. Brand new QB, virtually brand new O-Line, Brand new DC, but now (somehow) they find a way to win, whereas, a few years ago – they would have found a way to lose.

    They are fun to watch, and if I subscribed to the Observer I could be looking forward to the multitude of letters coming which urge, DEMAND that BK insert Buchner as the starting QB.

    Meanwhile – life goes on, the leaves turn, and it was GREAT to watch OSU lose at home.

    Greeting to all of you youngsters in SB from an old coot deep in the heart of Maine.

  18. Call me old fashioned, but Peacocking just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Barnstorming. I’m old enough to remember reading about a time when these programs wanted maximum exposure to expand their fan & recruiting bases.

    As a Canadian who is a fan partly because of years of access to free NBC coverage, I didn’t even have the option to watch this game. My goodness, even the grift game appears to be weak and shortsighted at ND these days.

  19. The open letter to Fr. Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick in The Observer is spot on and I agree with everything in that letter. I wanted to write something about how I felt this past week, but that letter says it all. I would encourage everyone to read the letter if you have not done so. It is time for the many members of the board to go, Mr. Swarbrick, Mr. Kelly, and Fr. Jenkins need to step aside. In addition to not filling up the stadium, I see the Game Day experience does not include any more pep rallys for the remainder of the football season. Not that they were that great anymore, but another tradition gone by the wayside. When I had attended the vigil mass Saturday night after the Toledo game, I thought I would go by Legends restaurant and see if they were open yet. They had a big tent set up out back and live music and I was hungry and inquired how much the buffet was. Two years ago they had an all you can eat buffet for 20 dollars which was a fair deal. I about had a heart attack when the lady said it was 55 dollars a person. I am a Catholic school teacher on a budget and I was flabbergasted by the cost. Very sad what Notre Dame is becoming, elitist and all about $$$.

    P.S. My friend tried to watch the game on Peacock and it froze up on her. I know of several family members and friends who could not watch the game because it was streamed. I tried to watch the game again after I got home was very frustrated trying to watch it. Lastly, it was sad that the two commentators were talking the whole time Fr. Jenkins, and Fr. Malloy were leading everyone in prayer to commemorate 911. Peacock is a thumbs down!!!!!

    • Good letter. I missed a ND home game for the 1st time since I can’t remember, and I would wager that it won’t be the last, once the figures are tabulated – with this administration @ND it’s all about the money.

      A sad tale that I tell occasionally – In 1993 I was living in Indiana and decided to go to the spring Blue-Gold game. I was standing in line outside the stadium to get a ticket when some people – Prosperous looking folks I assumed were ND grads – became aware that Tony Rice was standing in line behind me to get a ticket. They raised a commotion, asked him to pose in pictures with them, which he graciously did, and that was that.

      This is the guy who 5 years prior had been the QB for the National Championship team, and he was forced to stand in line to buy a ticket to the Blue-Gold game.

      How sad.

  20. I don’t know about you, but while I would LOVE to see Nebraska give Oklahoma a good game (don’t think so), I definitely will be watching the Cincinnati / Indiana game. Who should we be routing for on this one? Probably the Bearcats, I think so.

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