Notre Dame has a lot of work to do on offense, but the group did enough to get the win. Here is my instant analysis of the offense from the 32-29 victory.
*** Things started well for the Notre Dame offense, which went right down the field on the game’s opening drive and put it in the end zone. QB Jack Coan was sharp early and the RPO game was on point. Notre Dame had Toledo on its heels, but after that touchdown the offensive high points were few and far between.
*** This was one of the worst Notre Dame offensive line performances I have ever seen. That is not hyperbole or emotion, that is what happened. Notre Dame was physically and technically whipped all game long by an undersized MAC team.
*** Notre Dame’s run game got zero push throughout the game and the offensive line gave up six sacks in the game. It was an embarrassing performance by a line that looked woefully unprepared physically and mentally for this game.
*** The one time Notre Dame came off hard was on the 43-yard touchdown run. On that snap right tackle Joshua Lugg drove the edge well outside, which allowed Kyren Williams to get a stretch away from Cain Madden, who stopped his feet and got bear outside late. If Lugg doesn’t get that push the Madden miss blows up the play. Center Jarrett Patterson had a great second level block on the play that helped spring Williams loose.
*** That was it for the OL highlights. The line was soft at the point of attack, got knocked back all game long and could not sustain pass pro blocks all game long. Madden and left guard Zeke Correll were especially bad in the game. Correll had at least five or six snaps where he literally did not block anyone. He has regressed since last season, as has Lugg, as has Patterson. That goes well beyond the linemen, who deserve blame for that performance, and also speaks to absolutely poor preparation by the line coach.
*** Coan was incredibly sharp early, but the more he got hit the more he was impacted negatively and the more gun shy he became. By the second quarter the Toledo defense was playing tight coverage and taking away the quick throws that worked so well early, and there was not enough time to look for downfield routes. On the very few snaps where Coan could have gone deep he was anticipating pressure.
*** Coan threw a game changing pick late in the second quarter that proved costly. Toledo was squatting on the short throws for the reasons I just discussed, Coan locked in on the tight end and the defender just the quick throw and returned it for a score.
*** Notre Dame also had no schematic answers when Coan was in for the fact Toledo was crashing the backside of the run game.
*** Freshman QB Tyler Buchner came in and gave the offense a spark it needed. Buchner took advantage of that aggressive backside pursuit for a read zone pull that went for double digit yards on his first snap of the game. Buchner use his legs to do damage, and Tommy Rees made a great call the get Chris Tyree wide open on a wheel route out of the backfield for a long touchdown that put the Irish up 8 in the fourth quarter.
*** Coan wasn’t the only veteran who made an incredibly costly mistake. Outside of his 43-yard score, which was an impressive play, Williams danced way too much, missed holes and was subpar in pass protection. Williams also had an incredibly costly fumble late in the fourth quarter that allowed Toledo to march down the field for the late go-ahead score.
*** Notre Dame’s receivers were getting open quite a bit early but Coan rarely had time to push it downfield. Both Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy had issues getting off res coverage and both were ridden out of bounds on balls they caught because their press release moves weren’t good. This has been an issue for Notre Dame’s receivers for the last few seasons.
*** Coan made up for his costly mistake on the final drive. He was poised on the final series and made two great throws. He made a brilliant deep throw on the first play, choosing to take the shot instead of taking the underneath angle route to Williams that was open. Austin also made a great catch on the throw. On the touchdown to Mayer, Coan got his eyes on the Cover 2 safety, as soon as the safety went outside to Lenzy, Coan went inside to Mayer up the seam for the go-ahead score.
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