One early theme. It’s not going to be easy for Notre Dame.
At least until it figures out how to protect its quarterback and get a consistent push up front for the running game. It also needs to eliminate big plays on defense.
The Irish prevailed 32-29 on Saturday against a feisty, upset minded Toledo team. It was the 25th straight home win for Notre Dame and the 10th straight home opening win.
Last week, Notre Dame hung on for a 41-38 overtime victory over Florida State.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wasn’t particularly pleased with his team’s performance.
Areas of concern include the offensive line, which gave up six sacks and 11 tackles for losses and the defense, which gave up a 66-yard pass play and a 67-yard run by Bryant Koback. Notre Dame also turned the ball over three times. Koback’s run setup Toledo’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jack Coan and Michael Mayer saved the victory, taking just three plays to go 75-yards. Coan hit Mayer with a 18-yard TD pass with 1:09 left to give ND its final lead.
Kelly said the team has a lot of work to do. Aside from the three turnovers, Notre Dame struggled last week giving up big plays on defense and protecting the quarterback. The Irish did run the ball better, finishing with 132-yards rushing. Last week, Notre Dame only had 69-yards on the ground.
“From our perspective, we’re happy about the win,” Kelly said. “I can’t even begin with the work we have to do. It starts with the basic premise (of not having) three turnovers. One of them was a touchdown. You don’t usually survive those games and win when you do that. And number two, we gave up big plays on defense. We got them backed up on a couple of occasions. We haven’t turned the corner from that perspective.”
On top of the disjointed offensive and defensive play, a quarterback battle could be brewing.
For now, it appears that Notre Dame is in a good place with two quarterbacks with different skill sets. Kelly brought in Tyler Buchner in the first half to try to spark the Irish offense, which struggled for most of the second quarter under Coan.
The move worked.
Buchner rushed for 68-yards and he was 3 of 3 passing for 78-yards. Running back Chris Tyree caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Buchner in the fourth quarter that put the Irish ahead 24-16 with 10:57 left. Buchner also quarterbacked a second quarter scoring drive.
Kelly stuck with Coan on the final drive because he was more experienced.
It was the right call.
“He’s been there before,” Kelly said. “It’s not that Tyler couldn’t have done it but if you are looking for in the moment trying to win the game it made more sense to go with a guy that is more experienced.”
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