Notre Dame needed a late rally to avoid getting upset by 17-point underdog Toledo in the 2021 home-opener
Notre Dame eked out a victory for the second week in a row with a 32-29 win over Toledo in the 2021 home-opener. However, the Irish struggled to run the ball again and gave up big plays that nearly allowed a lesser talented team to pull off the upset. Two weeks in, the Irish are still searching for answers and are starting to run out of time before the schedule toughen up.
Offensive Line struggles worse than last week.
When the Notre Dame offensive line struggled last week against Florida State, I tried not to overreact since it was the first game with four new starters for the Irish. But, Notre Dame unfortunately, the offensive line struggled even more today against Toledo, a MAC opponent.
Notre Dame gave up six sacks to Toledo and couldn’t get the ground game going until they inserted freshman Tyler Buchner in at quarterback – more on him later. After the first drive of the game, Coan couldn’t get comfortable in the pocket because he was under siege. Regardless of how many new starters there are or injuries, it’s never going to be OK to be under siege against a MAC opponent.
The injuries compounded with what Brian Kelly referred to as a sprained ankle. Sophomore Tosh Baker came in and struggled early but did eventually settle in a little. Still, it was a bit of a rough debut for him. 5th year senior Josh Lugg didn’t fare a whole lot better on the right side.
► Notre Dame 17, TOLEDO 16
Score: Doerer 48-yard field goal at 12:25
Drive: 13 plays, 55 yards, 6:11 elapsed time following a Toledo punt
Key plays: Coan 10-yard pass to Avery Davis on third and 5. Coan 16-yard pass to Williams on third and 14 and the ND 36. Buchner 15-yard rush
► Notre Dame 24, TOLEDO 16
Score: Chris Tyree 55-yard pass from Tyler Buchner at 10:57 (Doerer kick)
Drive: One play, 55 yards, 0:09 elapsed time following at Toledo punt
► Notre Dame 24, TOLEDO 22
Score: Bryant Koback 8-yard run at 7:48 (conversion failed)
Drive: 6 plays, 89 yards, 3:03 elapsed time following a Notre Dame touchdown
Key plays: Bryant 67-yard run to the Notre Dame 22-yard line
► TOLEDO 29, NOTRE DAME 24
Score: Dequan Finn 26-yard run at 1:35 (Cluckey kick)
Drive: Seven plays, 73 yards, 1:51 elapsed time following Notre Dame fumble
Where Notre Dame goes from here, I don’t know. Kelly was asked about moving Jarrett Patterson to tackle following all of the injuries, but he quickly dismissed it. Week one struggles on the road against an ACC opponent with some talent on its defensive line are understandable. Week two struggles, at home, to a MAC opponent? Not so much.
Quarterback controversy brewing?
With the Notre Dame offense struggling in the first half, Brian Kelly inserted true freshman Tyler Buchner for a spark. He provided it. He led the Irish on a 96-yard touchdown drive, thanks largely to his legs and the threat of the run. With the offensive line struggling, inserting a mobile quarterback made a difference. It was just one drive, though, and Buchner didn’t get back on the field until the fourth quarter.
Key plays: Toledo takes over at its own 27 after ND fumble.15-yard pass from Carter to Isaiah Winstead on third and 12 from the 50 yards line
► Notre Dame 32, TOLEDO 29
Score: Mayer 18-yard pass from Coan at 1:09 (Williams pass from Avery Davis)
Drive: Three plays, 75 yards, 0:26 elapsed time following Toledo touchdown
Key plays: Austin 34-yard pass from Coan to the Toledo 41 on first play of the drive.