What they’re saying about Notre Dame’s close win over Toledo
A look at what the media is saying after Notre Dame’s 32-29 victory against Toledo on Saturday.
Mike Singer & Todd Burlage, BlueandGold.com: Notre Dame Fighting Irish football postgame show after Toledo Rockets game
Patrick Engel, BlueandGold.com: Notre Dame’s questions piling up after dodging disaster vs. Toledo
SOUTH BEND — Brian Kelly paused, eyebrows squeezed in tight and lips pressed together, and glanced downward at the dais in the Notre Dame Stadium media room.
It was an expression befitting of a bewildered fan after five failed attempts to sign up for Peacock Premium. Or, in his unique case, fitting for a head coach still sorting out why his Notre Dame team that has reeled off four straight 10-win seasons needed a go-ahead touchdown in the final 90 seconds to sidestep disaster against a Mid-American Conference opponent.
For nine silent seconds, he pondered the question posed to him: Has he realized there are more questions and areas to address than he imagined entering this year?
“Yes and no,” he said, breaking the pause. “Yes, in the sense that from a defensive standpoint, there is a little bit more to it than maybe I thought in figuring some things out. And offensively, I thought we would get to a run game that we felt comfortable with sooner.
“But on the other hand, I think the personnel is driving a lot of this in terms of making it difficult to settle on something. We have some guys that really can make some plays, and we are a little hesitant at times to say, ‘All right, this is who we're going to be.’”
In a way, the latter portion — the supposed “no” — is a question itself. The stack of them to answer is indeed large.
Notre Dame is 2-0, an imperfect perfect record attained with a backdrop of nervous laughter. The Irish escaped in overtime at Florida State after blowing an 18-point second-half lead in last week’s opener. They hit unexpected tripwire Saturday in a 32-29 win over Toledo.
Tyler Horka, BlueandGold.com: Report Card — Grading Notre Dame football in close call victory over Toledo
There wasn't a joke about execution from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, so that means the way his Fighting Irish graded out in Saturday’s three-point victory over Toledo had to have been better than the way they fared in last week’s three-point win over Florida State, right?
Well, actually, yes.
In spite of beating a Mid-American Conference opponent at home by the same margin as Notre Dame beat an ACC foe on the road in the season opener, the Irish actually did many things well in what could have easily been a huge upset loss.
Here's how Notre Dame graded out in the 32-29 win that pushed its record to 2-0:
Notre Dame Passing Offense: A
Notre Dame is going to take 317 yards through the air on 8.8 yards per attempt every Saturday. The Irish passed for 237.4 yards per game last year. Through two games in 2021, The Irish are averaging 341.5.
It wasn’t as smooth for graduate student quarterback Jack Coan and his teammates against Toledo. But in the end, the numbers checked out. And when Coan needed to lead the Irish on a scoring drive in the final two minutes of the game, he was able to do so in 26 seconds. He completed all three of his attempts for 58 yards, the last 18 of which came on a go-ahead touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Michael Mayer.
Even true freshman Tyler Buchner had a stellar day throwing the ball. How about 3-for-3 for 78 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 428.4? That’ll do. His touchdown throw to sophomore running back Chris Tyree was perfectly placed to allow Tyree to take off.
Douglas Farmer, NBC Sports: No. 8 Notre Dame 32, Toledo 29 — Featuring Jack Coan & Tyler Buchner
No. 8 Notre Dame (2-0) had an inordinate number of highlights for a game in which it escaped with a win only in the closing minutes. The Irish broke a 43-yard run for a touchdown, as well as a 55-yard catch-and-scamper for a score. Their offense showed some other moments of sustained explosiveness, namely the opening and closing drives led by quarterback Jack Coan and finishing with touchdown passes to sophomore tight end Michael Mayer.
So how did Notre Dame end up in yet another tense game with more points scored than expected? Toledo had an interception return for a touchdown, courtesy of Coan just before halftime, along with a 26-yard designed quarterback run reaching the end zone with only 95 seconds remaining.
The Irish defense remains an experiment in break-or-be-broken, a drastic change from the sure-tackling, suffocating units the last three years coordinated by Clark Lea.
“We know why it’s happening,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “We’re transitioning defenses.
“Again, I will tell you that we have new players on the field, younger players, inexperienced players that are going through some growing pains. In the long run, we still have to get the ball on the ground. We have a chance to do things, and we’re making them worse by not doing the fundamental things, turning plays that are 10, 12, 15 yards — you might have those occasionally — we’re letting them turn into 60-yard runs.”
Assuredly, even Coan would rather not have led a two-minute drill to win Saturday, an opportunity provided only by the defense’s lapses.
ESPN staff: AP Top 25 college football poll reaction: What's next for each ranked team?
No. 12 Notre Dame (2-0)
The Irish defense has given up 70 points in its first two games, each decided by three points. Purdue is next on the schedule, followed by Wisconsin and Cincinnati; that's a tough gauntlet and a short amount of time for the defense to figure things out. Wisconsin's offense has not been stellar so far this season, but its defense has been stifling. Cincinnati has scored 49 and 42 points while holding its opponents to 14 and seven points, respectively. It's going to take Notre Dame fixing its issues quickly to get through those next three games unscathed. -- Tom VanHaaren
Madison Williams, Sporting News: Notre Dame’s Jack Coan throws game-winning TD after dislocating finger
No. 8 Notre Dame was trailing Toledo by five points with 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter Saturday, but a win seemed very possible. The Irish were deep in Rockets territory.
Well, that was until Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan suffered a dislocated finger on his throwing hand. Throwing the ball for the victory, at least, seemed out of reach at that point.
But the senior wasn’t giving up. Coan ran to the sideline, where a trainer popped the finger back into place in a matter of seconds. Coan looked slightly bothered, but he immediately started running back to the huddle as soon as the finger was back in place.
While Coan was surely in pain, he didn’t show it. On the next play, he threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Mayer, giving the Irish the lead. A two-point conversion gave them their final margin of victory in a 32-29 win.
Postgame press conferences
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