Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 SEPT. 11, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: TOLEDO BY TODD D. BURLAGE TOLEDO RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Toledo played in only six games last year be- cause of the pandemic, so some of its 2020 statisti- cal numbers are skewed. That said, led by Bryant Koback, the Rockets piled up some solid rushing numbers last season. Koback, a junior this season, recorded 522 total yards, 87.0 rushing yards per game and scored four touchdowns. He enjoyed two 100-yard games in 2020, including a season-high 149 yards against Eastern Michigan. A third-year starter in 2021, Koback entered this season with 2,626 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns during his Toledo career, including 1,187 yards with 12 scores in 2019. Expect Koback to get the bulk of the carries, but for redshirt freshman tailback Micah Kelly to also get plenty of work off the bench. Kelly added 208 rushing yards with two touchdowns last season. As a team, Toledo averaged 168.2 rushing yards per game in 2020, which ranked 59th in the coun- try. The high-powered Rockets offense also returns all five of its starting linemen. The Irish allowed only 113 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked 16th in the nation. Through camp, Notre Dame's depth at defensive line and linebacker gave the Irish a solid founda- tion to either match or even improve on its rushing defense from a year ago. Advantage: Notre Dame TOLEDO PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Toledo started camp with a four-man quarter- back competition but it appeared as if fourth-year sophomore Carter Bradley had emerged as the favorite to claim the starting spot. That position came open when Eli Peters, the pri- mary starter in 2020, retired from football because of multiple injuries after starting 14 career games. Bradley made two starts last season and ap- peared in four games, finishing with 849 passing yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. The son of former NFL head coach and current Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Carter is a prototypical drop-back passer while Toledo also features athletic dual-threat redshirt fresh- man quarterback Dequan Finn as a change of pace. Finn has only 13 career passing attempts but his 141 rushing yards and 5.6 per-carry average should at least provide him with some opportunities to contribute this season. The Toledo receiving corps is led by junior Isaiah Winstead, who recorded 25 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns last season to earn third- team All-MAC honors. Winstead is joined by senior wideouts Danzel McKinley-Lewis and Bryce Mitchell. McKinley- Lewis has 87 catches and five scores in his career while Mitchell, a second-team All-MAC selection in 2019, has 55 career receptions with nine touch- downs. The Irish were solid but not spectacular defend- ing the pass last season, ranking 34th nationally in pass efficiency defense, 40th in sacks (2.58) and 58th in interceptions (seven). Advantage: Notre Dame On PaPer Junior running back Bryant Koback has compiled 2,626 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns during his career at Toledo. PHOTO COURTESY TOLEDO ATHLETICS

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