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Notre Dame Ekes Out 32-29 Victory Over Pesky Rockets

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Offensive Line Struggles Nearly Sink Irish Season in Week 2

NCAA Football: Toledo at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Irish fans that did not purchase Peacock Premium missed an extremely ugly and wildly entertaining match-up as Notre Dame took on Toledo this afternoon. Though the scoreboard read 32-29 in favor of the Irish, a more apt description would be that Notre Dame merely survived the veteran-laden Toledo Rockets. This game had it all: ugly turnovers, abdominal offensive line play, a quarterback rotation, and a continuation of the defensive miscues from last week.

The opening series did little to indicate what was in store for the rest of the game. Jack Coan looked poised in the pocket as the offense marched 6 plays in 75 yards to take an early 7-0 lead. Michael Mayer appeared to be in for an extremely productive day as he caught 3 passes, highlighted by a 4-yard touchdown grab to complete the drive. Toledo responded with their own scoring drive immediately. KJ Wallace, who was playing at nickelback, allowed a 66-yard pass on a wheel route on the first 3rd down of the game for the Rocket offense. Toledo capped the drive with a Thomas Cluckey 31-yard field goal. In a harbinger of things to come for the Irish offensive line, Notre Dame’s next possession saw Jack Coan hit from behind on a strip-sack. Toledo capitalized on the miscue and used a 14-yard run and 23-yard pass to pull within field goal range. The drive ended with a Cluckey 32-yard field goal to leave the score at 7-6. The teams exchanged punts on the next 3 possessions as the score stood at 7-6 at the end of the 1st quarter. Offensively, Notre Dame struggled to gain any traction in the run game. Furthermore, outside of the opening possession, the offensive line also struggled to adequately protect Coan as he was constantly under duress.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Toledo at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Following a Toledo punt to begin the 2nd quarter, Tyler Buchner entered the game to begin Notre Dame’s drive from the Irish 4-yard line. Buchner immediately infused life into the offense with back-to-back runs of 26 yards and 11 yards, respectively. The threat of a mobile quarterback slowed the Toledo pass rush and opened up a hole for Kyren Williams to gallop to a 43-yard touchdown to put the Irish up 14-6. The Irish defense continued to hold up their end of the bargain by forcing another punt. Coan re-entered the game on the ensuing possession and found Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles Jr. on back-to-back plays to give the true freshmen their first career catches. However, the drive quickly stalled when Chris Tyree was stuffed on a 4th and 1 rushing attempt on the Irish 40-yard line. Toledo used the advantageous starting field position to tack on another Cluckey field goal. Then, just before halftime, disaster struck in multiple ways. First, Tosh Baker was forced into action at left tackle after Michael Carmody suffered what appeared to be a right ankle injury. Carmody would not return for the rest of the game. More importantly, Coan and Mayer were not on the same page on an out-breaking route on the 2nd play of the drive, resulting in a Toledo 27-yard interception that was returned for a touchdown. Thus, the Rockets entered halftime with a surprising 16-14 lead.

Toledo v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

During the 3rd quarter, the Irish defense largely held the Rockets in check. On offense, Coan saw the majority of the snaps, while Buchner rotated in on one series. Jonathan Doerer missed a 55-yard field goal which would have pushed the Irish out in front of Toledo but responded to drill a 48-yard attempt early in the 4th quarter to nudge the Irish in front 17-16. Following a quick 3 and out by Toledo, Buchner returned to the field. Buchner wasted no time in making his impact felt again as he hit Tyree on a short screen that went for a 55-yard touchdown, putting the Irish up 24-16 with 10:57 remaining in the game. However, Toledo refused to go down without a fight and quickly answered with a touchdown, highlighted by a 67-yard run that was reminiscent of the long Florida State touchdown run last week. Toledo opted for a 2-point conversion which failed. On their next possession, Notre Dame appeared to be in a position to milk the clock away as they were putting together a 9 play, 48-yard drive. Unfortunately, Kyren Williams fumbled on the Toledo 27-yard line as he was fighting for extra yardage with 3:26 left in the contest. Toledo quickly moved down the field thanks to a 15-yard pass, a holding penalty on Cam Hart, a 3rd and 12 conversion, and a 26-yard rush by quarterback Dequann Finn on a 3rd and 1 play to take a 29-24 lead. With 1:35 left in the game and a near-certain upset staring them in the face, Coan and the offense went to work. Coan immediately hit Kevin Austin down the right sideline for 34 yards. Coan followed up with a 6-yard dump-off to Mayer. Toledo then committed a holding penalty and pass interference penalty on back-to-back plays to move Notre Dame to the 18-yard line. On the pass interference play, Coan dislocated one of his fingers on his throwing hand and ran over to athletic trainer Mike Bean who quickly popped the finger back into place. Coan proceeded to hit Mayer over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown on the next play. Notre Dame converted their 2-point attempt when Avery Davis hit Kyren Williams on a trick play. Toledo had one final chance to tie or take the lead on the following possession. However, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa forced a fumble with 25 seconds left in the game, which was recovered by JD Bertrand.

Toledo v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Top Performers:

  1. Jack Coan- 21/33, 239 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
  2. JD Bertrand- 11 total tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for a loss
  3. Tyler Buchner- 3/3, 78 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 68 rushing yards
Toledo v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images