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Notre Dame Quarterback Jack Coan Finished The Regular Season The Way He Started It

Notre Dame veteran quarterback Jack Coan shined in the 45-14 victory over Stanford

Notre Dame capped off the 2021 regular season with a resounding 45-14 victory over Stanford to move to 11-1. Offensively, the Irish racked up over 500 total yards of offense for the second straight week and third time this season in what was a commanding performance.

For quarterback Jack Coan, the graduate transfer finished the regular season the same way he started it for Notre Dame: with a bang.

The Long Island native methodically picked apart the Stanford defense, finishing the game 26-for-35 passing (74.3%) for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The 26 completions tied Coan’s season-high mark set in the opener against Florida State, and the 345 passing yards were his second most behind the 366 he threw against the Seminoles.

It was a nearly flawless first half for the Irish signal caller. Coan completed 18 of his 23 pass attempts (78.3%) for 198 yards and two touchdowns. The 18 first-half completions are more than Coan had total in seven of the previous 11 games. His 198 passing yards in the first 30 minutes were also more than he threw for in five full games on the season. It was Coan’s third straight game with multiple passing touchdowns by halftime.

Those numbers are even more noteworthy given the fact that coming into the game, Stanford’s biggest strength defensively was its pass defense. The Cardinal were giving up just over 203 yards through the air per game prior to the matchup with the Irish, a figure that ranked 30th nationally. Coan nearly eclipsed that mark in the first half alone.

It’s clear Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees wanted to get Coan going early, as 14 of Notre Dame’s first 19 plays were pass attempts. Coan was a perfect 4-for-4 on the opening drive of the game, and connected with Braden Lenzy on a 16-yard post route over the middle to give the Irish the early lead they never looked back on.

Coan’s lone blemish in the game came on Notre Dame’s first drive of the second half. On 3rd-and-2, Coan was trying to find tight end Michael Mayer on a quick option-route but telegraphed the pass and Stanford’s Jonathan McGill read it the whole way and picked it off. Coan had a pass attempt deflected and nearly intercepted earlier in the first half on another play where he was trying to force it in to Mayer.

In spite of those two plays, the connection between Coan and Mayer again proved fruitful for the Irish. Mayer caught nine passes for 109 yards, breaking the Notre Dame single season receptions record by a tight end (64) in the process. It was the sixth game this season Mayer has led the team in receptions, and his 64 for the season are 22 more than the next highest receiver (Kevin Austin/Kyren Williams tied with 42).

The veteran quarterback also bounced back on the drive following the interception, connecting with Kevin Austin for a 61-yard completion before taking it in the end zone himself on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. It was the second rushing touchdown of the season for Coan.

For the third straight week, Irish true freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner got extended second half action under center after Coan and Notre Dame built a comfortable 31-7 lead.

Again, Buchner impressed with his legs. On his first play under center, running back Chris Tyree was able to spring loose for a 33-yard gainer on an option play where the Cardinal were overly committed to the Buchner keeper. Two plays later, Buchner did keep the ball and got free for a 33-yard touchdown run, his third rushing touchdown of the season.

Coan added the cherry on top of the game and the season for the Irish when he re-entered the game with over six minutes left in the fourth quarter and piloted a nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive that was concluded by a 12-yard Kyren Williams touchdown. It was Notre Dame’s longest drive of the game at five minutes and 26 seconds, and left just under a minute remaining in the game.

It was an up-and-down season for Notre Dame offensively, as the Irish struggled to have consistency or any sort of identity for the majority of the first six games of the season. The initial interchanging between Coan and Buchner (and occasionally Drew Pyne) felt more like a team in search of something rather than a team effectively utilizing the strengths of its multiple talented quarterbacks at the right times.

There’s no question the Irish were able to find themselves and an entirely new gear in the second half of the season. In the final six games of the season, Notre Dame averaged 39.5 points per game.

Though Coan’s lone season in South Bend was not devoid of its drawbacks, the overall success that the Wisconsin transfer was able to have in his first year in an entirely new program is undeniable and should not be downplayed.

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With the regular season complete, Coan’s final line reads 215-for-318 (67.6%), 2,641 yards, 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Coan was advertised as an accurate thrower who could push the ball down field and make the throws that were needed to win games. You’d be hard pressed to argue that he didn’t deliver on all accounts outside of one game in early October against Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, the season opener against Florida State is one of just two games Buchner did not see any action in his first season in an Irish uniform. It’s remarkable for a freshman to come in and have an impact like Buchner did, scoring touchdowns and providing the offense with an extra (and much-needed) dimension; at quarterback, no less. The experience that Buchner was able to gain this season will undoubtedly pay dividends down the road for Notre Dame. The San Diego native closes out the regular season as the Irish’s second leading rusher with 336 yards and three touchdowns.

Ultimately, the tandem of the experienced, graduate student Coan and the true freshman Buchner propelled Notre Dame to a fifth straight 10-win season and third 11-win season in the last four years. Both quarterbacks were in their first year playing for the Irish, and both have helped put the team in the position to compete in a New Year’s Six Bowl and potentially for a national championship. That’s no small feat, and something they deserve to be commended for. 

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