5 Stars: The best and worst of Notre Dame’s escape over Toledo

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The first half was rough, aside from the first series and then when Tyler Buchner came in for his series and engineered a drive capped off by a Kyren Williams long touchdown run. The second half was a struggle, empty drives in the third quarter for both teams kept Toledo with a slim 16-14 lead. The Irish struck first in the second half as Buchner again showed his potential, finding Chris Tyree. Toledo answered right away but missed the 2-point conversion to tie the game. The game went to the wire again, Toledo taking the lead late and the Irish having to mount a comeback. Coan came back and found Michael Mayer for the game winner. It wasn’t pretty, but like last week, a win is a win. Take a look below at the best, 5 stars, and worst, 1 star, performances from the Irish today.

5 ⭐️ The opening drive play calling

Sep 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Toledo Rockets. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For the second week in a row, the Irish marched down the field in their opening drive and Coan found tight end Michael Mayer for a score. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has done a fantastic job getting the offense ready for their initial, scripted drive. The rest of the play calling, well that leaves a lot to be desired but starting out the gates with a touchdown is a great way to begin games.

4 ⭐️ Defensive pressure

Notre Dame defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (95) during the Blue-Gold NCAA spring football game on Saturday, May 1, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Last week saw Florida State have a good amount of time in the pocket to find their receivers. Today was a different story. Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman made the right changes and got pressure on Toledo’s quarterbacks. Multiple sacks from all levels of the defense was exactly what the Irish needed. Yes, the pressure wasn’t was it was in the fourth quarter like it was earlier in the game, but the scramble made it difficult. The unit game up huge in the final moments, forcing a fumble and the recovery. This was very encouraging as a unit and hopefully this continues as the season goes on.

3 ⭐️ Quarterback Tyler Buchner’s running

Sep 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) carries in the second quarter against the Toledo Rockets at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The true freshman brought a different element to the offensive game for the Irish. The threat of his running ability was obvious, he picked up good chunks of yardage when the offense went stagnant. It was nice to see that he got some much needed reps. Buchner as a thrower however still needs plenty of work. The touchdown pass was great, but that was more on the scheme than Buchner’s ability. The arm strength is there, but timing and accuracy was a bit off. For him to really be a complete quarterback, the threat to push the ball downfield needs to be there. That will come in time, but right now, Buchner’s best ability is to run the ball.

2 ⭐️ Quarterback Jack Coan

Sep 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Jack Coan (17) throws as Toledo Rockets linebacker Terrance Taylor (56) pressures in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For as great as he looked last week, it seems like he regressed this week. Obviously the pick-6 was a bad throw, but Coan missed open some reads while holding the ball too long on multiple occasions. I have always been iffy about Coan’s ability and his inconsistency reared it’s ugly head once again. He showed flashes of solid play, but not like last week at all. He was sacked 6 times, which is obviously not good. You do have to give him a ton of credit for engineering the game winning touchdown drive, but there was a lot more to be desired from a graduate transfer which a ton of experience. There should be a quarterback controversy heading into next week, especially after Coan hurt his finger on the final drive. this situation will surely be one to watch as the Irish prepare for Purdue.

1 ⭐️ The offensive line

Image courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics

Yes, replacing first Blake Fisher then Michael Carmody isn’t easy. That would be rough for any program to be working on their third-string left tackle. It’s not all on the unit, Rees needs to understand that they needed to shift the backs help over to that side. The run blocking was not good either, way too many runs stopped behind the line of scrimmage. It was a rough go all around and this group needs to get better in order for the Irish to face off against the more challenging teams later this season otherwise it’s going to be a long season for the Irish.