Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 18, 2021

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

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Page 26 of 55 SEPT. 18, 2021 27 DISLOCATED FINGER NO HINDRANCE TO JACK COAN'S LATE-GAME HEROICS Jack Coan was not letting a chance to deliver Notre Dame a win slip through his fingers. Even if it required a crude repair job to his own digits. Coan, Notre Dame's quarterback, smacked his right middle finger on Toledo linebacker (and Notre Dame transfer) Jonathan Jones' helmet on the follow-through of a pass attempt. The ball intended for sophomore tight end Michael Mayer fell incomplete, but a pass interference penalty gave Notre Dame a first down at Toledo's 18-yard line with 1:13 left. The Fighting Irish, trailing by five points, were in prime position to score and escape disaster. Coan had led them into the red zone. Time to finish the drive and filch a win. One problem: one of the fingers on his passing hand was dislocated. Coan trotted over to trainer Mike Bean, his finger stuck pointing outward. Like tightening a screw, Bean popped it back into place in mere seconds and sent Coan back onto the field. To any- one in the stands or the press box, it looked like a routine water break. "Bean went out there and performed some kind of, I don't know, pull the fin- ger thing," head coach Brian Kelly said. "Is that the medical term?" Accurate enough. And effective enough. One play later, Notre Dame had the lead after Coan fired a dart to Mayer for an 18-yard touchdown with 1:09 left. The Irish's two-point conversion at- tempt succeeded and gave them a 32-29 lead they preserved when graduate stu- dent defensive end Myron Tagovailoa- Amosa sacked Toledo quarterback Carter Bradley and forced a fumble with 25 seconds left. "He pulled the finger, got it back in place, and the next play we were throw- ing the verticals," Kelly said. "We went four verticals, brought the tight end to the backside hash, and Jack steps up." Notre Dame had run the play earlier in the drive, Mayer said, though the ball went to senior receiver Kevin Austin Jr. for a 34-yard gain. He and Coan no- ticed Toledo linebacker Dyontae John- son playing outside technique on Mayer, willing to give up a catch over the mid- dle where there may be safety help. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees called it again. Johnson lined up about five yards off Mayer, same outside le- verage. Mayer took two forward steps, made one step and shoulder turn as if he was running a corner route, then cut back inside toward the post. Wide open. No defender over the top. Mayer leaped and snared Coan's pass just in front of the goal line. Touchdown. Crisis averted. For Mayer, it was his seventh catch and second touchdown of the day, both team highs. Coan connected on 21 of 33 throws for 239 yards with two touch- downs and one interception. And one impromptu finger repair. "That just shows his grit, his intensity and his mentality," sophomore running back Chris Tyree said. Coan had unexpectedly found himself rotating with freshman Tyler Buchner in the game. Buchner's prepared pack- age of plays initially provided a spark and turned into full immersion into the offense in the second half. Buchner threw a 55-yard touchdown to Tyree on a screen with 10:57 left that gave Notre Dame a 24-16 lead. He was on the field for the final three plays of the drive that ended in junior running back Kyren Williams' fumble and set up Toledo's go-ahead touchdown with 1:35 to go. Yet Kelly sent Coan out for Notre Dame's last chance, valuing his experi- ence in that spot. It would've been easy for Coan to press and feel like he was playing for his job. Instead, he calmly led Notre Dame down the field in 26 seconds, undeterred by any pressure and by a busted-up finger. "Jack was poised the entire game," Mayer said. "That's what I saw from him all camp, the entire summer. He's going to be doing that the rest of the year." TYLER BUCHNER'S DEBUT WAS THE 'SHOT IN THE ARM' NOTRE DAME NEEDED There was no ceremonious entrance. His name wasn't blasted from the public address announcer's mouth and into the ears of nearly 70,000 fans at Notre Dame Stadium. He simply trotted onto the field, commanded the Fighting Irish huddle and lined up behind senior center Jarrett Patterson. And then he ran for 26 yards on the first play of his college career. TOLEDO GAME NOTES BY PATRICK ENGEL AND TYLER HORKA Coan completed all three of his throws for 58 yards to guide the Irish on a 75-yard drive in just 26 sec- onds en route to the game-winning touchdown. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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