It was a nerve-wracking finish for Notre Dame football for the second straight week as the Irish scored in the last minute of the game to beat Toledo 32-29 in the opening match and advance to 2-0. The win was the 25th in a row from Notre Dame at the Notre Dame Stadium.
It was an almost identical start for Notre Dame offensively against the Rockets. For the second straight week, Jack Coan finished a perfect 4-4 on the opening drive of the game and faced Michael Mayer three more times, including the 4-yard touchdown pass that gave the Irish a 7-0 lead a little more than 2 minutes brought into play.
Toledo reacted immediately, however, after Bradley Carter hit Devin Maddox in third place on the crotch on a 66-yard wheel route to build a 31-yard field goal make that got the Rockets on the board. After poor coverage of the big third down game, Notre Dame stepped defensively into the red zone to force the field goal. Kyle Hamilton almost received his third interception of the season from a distraction and Jayson Ademilola had a crucial pass break in third place.
On the second drive of Notre Dame, the Irish quickly marched into Toledo territory before Quinyon Mitchell, cornerback of the Rockets, raced untouched from the left in a corner lightning bolt and pulled the sacked Coan to return possession to the Rockets. Then Carter found Maddox again for a 25 yard punch over the middle to get Toledo back into the red zone. But Notre Dame’s defense proved steadfast in the red zone for the second straight year, forcing another field goal attempt, which Thomas Cluckey nailed from 32 meters away. After a quarter of the game, Notre Dame was leading 7-6.
Real freshman Tyler Buchner started the second quarter as a quarterback for Notre Dame and wasted no time making his presence felt. On the first game of the drive from the 4-yard line at Notre Dame, Buchner started for a 26-yard win on a quarterback run option. In the next game, Buchner won 11 more yards on the ground on another quarterback keeper. Three games later, Kyren Williams started for a 43-yard touchdown on the sideline of the drive as Toledo’s defense was overly preoccupied with Buchner’s running potential.
In Buchner’s debut drive, the newcomer led the Irish 96 yards down field in 5 games to extend the lead to 14-6, stormed for 37 yards and also completed his first career pass for Braden Lenzy for 15 yards. Notre Dame had lost three points in its two previous trips at the end of the first quarter.
After the start-up in the second quarter of Buchner, things quickly went downhill for Notre Dame. The Irish turned it around on the following offensive drive on downs within their own 50-yard line, and Toledo was able to add another short field goal to close the gap to 14-9.
The Irish Defense prevented the Rockets from scoring a third straight touchdown in the red zone, but a defensive holding penalty and a defensive pass interference penalty on back-to-back games allowed Toledo to go all the way down down to come to the Notre Dame 5 yard line in the first place. Toledo wide receiver Bryce Mitchell also dropped the green touchdown pass on the third down before attempting the field goal.
With less than a minute in the first half, things kept getting worse for Notre Dame as Toledo’s defensive back Chris McDonald Jr Cherry on top of a 10-point turnaround in the second quarter.
At halftime, Toledo was leading 16-14 with 10 of the Rockets points coming from the two Irish turnovers. Notre Dame’s offensive line fights continued as the Irish rushing attack outside of Williams’ 43-yard scoring run averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt and Coan was fired three times in the first 30 minutes. Sophomores Michael Carmody and Tosh Baker looked overwhelmed as they replaced injured freshman Blake Fisher on the left tackle.
Both teams came away empty-handed on their first two drives of the second half, although Notre Dame kicker Jonathan Doerer had the distance on a long 55-yard field goal attempt that landed far to the left. At the end of the third quarter the result remained 16:14 Toledo, although Notre Dame drove the quarter through midfield and the Rockets only collected 21 yards of offense in the quarter.
Thirteen games, four first downs and 55 yards later, Notre Dame took the lead back after a 48-yard field goal attempt by Jonathan Doerer split the posts to make it 17-16 Notre Dame in the fourth game. The Irish scoring drive was the longest of the game for both teams, taking six minutes and eleven seconds of play to finish the third quarter and start the fourth.
Immediately thereafter, the Irish defense forced a fourth straight punt and a fifth three-and-out for Toledo. Right at the next offensive game for Notre Dame, Tyler Buchner was back in quarterback for Notre Dame, mating with a wide-open Chris Tyree for a 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown that gave the Irish a 24-16 lead by just under under 11 minutes to play.
However, Toledo refused to leave. In the Rockets’ first scrimmage game after the Tyree touchdown, running back Bryant Koback sped past the Irish defense to win 67 yards from the Rockets at Notre Dame 22.
A few games later, Koback caught a shovel pass from Bradley Carter on third down and long, bringing him 8 yards into the end zone. After Notre Dame halted the two-point conversion attempt, the scoreboard showed 24-22 Irish with 7:48 remaining in the game.
Buchner and Coan shared quarterback time on the following Notre Dame drive, and the offense seemed to develop a rhythm. Coan found Mayer for a big third down conversion, while Buchner scoured 19 more rushing yards to get the Irish to the 33-yard line from Toledo.
Then, on the second and short way, Kyren Williams won the yardage first before being pulled by Toledo Defensive Tackle Desjuan Johnson. The Rockets regained the fumble and took possession of the ball with 3:26 before the game.
Toledo moved the ball into the field at will on the following drive. After two 15-yard completions from Carter to Isaiah Winstead, one of which finished 3rd and 12th, and a pass interference penalty against the Irish, Rocket’s backup quarterback Dequan Finn slipped unaffected from the backcourt left sideline and 26 yards down into the end zone to give Toledo the lead and silence Notre Dame Stadium. With 1:35 before the game, Toledo had all the momentum and a 29:24 lead.
With his back pressed against the wall, Jack Coan and the Notre Dame insult responded with great style. Coan found Kevin Austin deep down on the right sideline in the first game of Notre Dame’s next drive to win 34 yards, an excellent catch from Austin contact. Coan then bonded six yards with Mayer before successive penalties on Toledo put the Irish up with a first down from the Rockets 18.
At the first down, Coan Mayer found again over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown. The Irish led 30-29 after the Mayer result and tried to extend their lead to the distance of a field goal.
In the two-point game, Coan took the snap and turned it over to Williams, who tossed it back to recipient Avery Davis. Davis, the former Notre Dame quarterback, then made a nice cut to avoid a sack from the Toledo defender who was right in the backcourt, saw that his first option was covered in Coan, looked back and tossed Williams one perfect ball in the end zone to make it 32-29 Notre Dame. It was an extremely athletic and intelligent game by veteran Davis. The Irish walked 75 yards in three games over a minuscule 26 seconds to regain the lead after Toledo scored a goal in game four with 1:35 remaining.
With just over a minute of play time for Toledo to catch up or take the lead, the Notre Dame defense sealed the deal after Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa Carter Bradley was sacked and JD Bertrand recovered.
It was up and down again for Notre Dame on either side of the ball. The offense was able to collect 27 first downs, convert on 8-of-14 third-down attempts, and collect 449 yards in total, but flipped the ball three times.
Strong play from real freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner was also a big bright spot offensively. Despite the Irish pitching 132 rushing yards, the Irish offensive line gave up 5 sacks for the game and looked shaky for the second straight week.
Defensively, Notre Dame forced seven punts for the game but gave up multiple touchdowns again in the fourth quarter and struggled to get the big stops on track.
It wasn’t nice but it was a win and Notre Dame has still not lost at Notre Dame Stadium since 2017.
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Contents of the Irish breakdown
List of Notre Dame 2021
Notre Dame 2021 schedule
Notre Dame 2022 commits Big Board: offense
Notre Dame 2022 sign Big Board: Defense
Notre Dame 2022 scholarship offers
Notre Dame 2022 class Big Board
Notre Dame 2023 class Big Board
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