Game balls for Notre Dame’s 32-29 win vs. Toledo

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About the one good thing that happened in Notre Dame’s too close for comfort, 32-29 win over Toledo on Saturday was that the win kept us from the ridiculous amount of “HOLY TOLEDO” headlines that would have been written had the Irish fallen, something they probably deserved to do after an incredibly unimpressive showing.

Who played well? Did anyone star in the Irish victory? Plenty did not but here is who especially stuck out to the FIW staff and received game balls in the win:

Geoffrey Clark:

AP Photo/AJ Mast

Offense - Tyler Buchner If you had told me Toledo would be the opponent Buchner would get plenty of reps in, I would have believed you but thought they would come in garbage time. Instead, he made meaningful plays even when the game was tight in the fourth quarter. Because of how he played both on the ground and in the pocket, we have a quarterback controversy in South Bend. Jack Coan clearly has more talent, but is he the one you have a better chance to win with? Defense - Cam Hart Hart didn't make the most spectacular plays, but he was an unexpected help to a defensive line that struggled at times. There were a few moments where he helped his team up front in a big way, but he surely will tell you those plays could have been better. The near-interception in the first half near the Irish's end zone will be the prime example of that. We could have just seen the beginnings of a breakout season for someone who wasn't on many people's radars before.

Michael Chen:

Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Offense - Tyler Buchner Yeah, yeah, Jack Coan drove the Irish down for the game winning score, but what about in between his touchdown passes to Michael Mayer? It was the true freshman that stirred the Irish’s drink, making plays with his feet and finding Chris Tyree for his first touchdown pass in the Blue and Gold. Coan injured his finger late in the game as well, so his availability against Purdue will be in question. What’s not in question is the impending quarterback controversy, as Brian Kelly has a big time decision on his hands. Buchner looked better with his opportunities and if Tommy Rees has a full week to design plays for him, I think he gives the offense another dimension that Coan doesn’t. Defense - Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa There were a few solid performances for multiple Irish defenders, but with the game on the line, it was Tagovailoa-Amosa that made the biggest play of the contest. Forcing a fumble on Toledo quarterback Carter Bradley after the Irish took the late lead was huge. It was exactly what Notre Dame needed at the right time. Someone had to step up and it was Tagovailoa-Amosa, so his big play at the end of the game sealed the deal for me.

Nick Shepkowski:

Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Offense - Tyler Bucher This one is hard but here we go. Jack Coan played poorly for a large part of the game while Michael Mayer disappeared for 50 minutes or so after dominating the opening drive. Both wound up heroes in the end but this game is not won without Tyler Buchner’s efforts. His legs were needed as the Irish offensive line struggled to protect all afternoon and the game simply wasn’t being won without him. We learned today that if Notre Dame is going to compete for anything of real significance in 2021 it will be a must to get Buchner on the field because of his unique athleticism. Defense - J. D. Bertrand I know Kyle Hamilton’s interception against Florida State could be the play of the year when it’s all said and done but J. D. Bertrand has impressed me the most of any Notre Dame defender through two games. He had three more tackles behind the line of scrimmage Saturday while leading Notre Dame in tackles a second week in a row. Related: Notre Dame sneaks by Toledo: 5 Instant Takeaways 5 Stars: Good, bad, and ugly of Notre Dame’s win vs. Toledo

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