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Notre Dame QB Jack Coan Has Shown Great Resiliency In His Final Season

Jack Coan's season has been a roller coaster, but he's come through when it mattered most

Out of everything that’s been noteworthy about Irish quarterback Jack Coan’s lone season in South Bend, perhaps what’s most remarkable is how resilient the former Wisconsin signal-caller has been from the start.

In the season opener against Florida State, Coan threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns, setting the program record for passing yards in a season opener and tying the mark for touchdowns. 

Not bad for your debut in a new system with new teammates and new coaches across the board. Oh yeah, it was also Coan’s first time playing since the 2019 season after he missed the entirety of last season due to a foot injury.

Coan proved he was ready for the moment against the Seminoles, but it wasn’t until the following game against Toledo that the Sayville, New York product showed what he’s truly made of.

With the Irish trailing the Rockets 29-25 with under two minutes left in the game, Coan piloted a three-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take the lead that was capped off by an 18-yard end zone strike over the middle to sophomore tight end Michael Mayer. It would prove to be the game winning drive for Notre Dame, but it’s what happened before the touchdown throw to Mayer that was especially impressive.

The play immediately preceding the touchdown, Coan dislocated a finger on his throwing hand on a Toledo pass rusher while following through on a pass attempt, rushed over to the sidelines to trainer Mike Bean, got his finger put back into place, and then ran back out on the field without missing a play and found Mayer for the score in a display of pure guts and grit.

It took just one week of August practice for Coan to be officially named Notre Dame’s starter going into Florida State, but Coan’s red hot start under center quickly fizzled out, and by the second half of Notre Dame’s week five, top-10 showdown with Cincinnati, the Long Island native was on the bench watching sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne lead the comeback attempt that ultimately fell short.

Coan started the following game after the loss to Cincinnati against Virginia Tech, but was benched for the second straight week in favor of freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner, this time early in the second quarter after Notre Dame’s first three drives came up empty. As Notre Dame built a 21-16 lead with Buchner under center, it felt as though Coan’s time leading the Irish offense was beginning to flatline. That is, for everyone except Coan himself.

In the fourth quarter, Buchner went down with a leg injury after throwing his second interception of the game. The Hokies proceeded to march down the field and score to take a 29-21 lead with under four minutes to play. Enter the unflappable Coan.

After sitting for close to three quarters, Coan came off the bench and led a decisive, seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a four-yard touchdown throw to Avery Davis. Coan was 5-6 through the air on the drive and also connected with Kevin Austin on the ensuing two-point conversion try to tie the game at 29. After the Irish defense forced a three-and-out, 

Coan got the ball back and proceeded to captain a seven-play, 45-yard drive that set up Jonathan Doerer to hit the eventual game-winning field goal as time expired. In the final two drives, Coan was 7-for-9 for 93 yards and a score fresh off of the bench.

It was a testament to who Coan is as a person and player. Prepared. Poised. Levelheaded.

According to Coan, being able to stay grounded regardless of circumstances is both something that came naturally and an aspect of his game that he’s tried to enhance throughout his career.

“It's always kind of been who I am. I don't really get too high or too low, sort of just stay in the moment. When a play happens, sort of just flush it right away and get to the next,” Coan said.

“It's also something I've tried to work on too when I was at Wisconsin, working with our mental performance trainer there and then coming here and working with Dr. [Amber] Selking, and her mental performance program. I take that stuff seriously and I try to use it as another way I can improve my game. I think it's extremely valuable. For me, personally, I think the world of it.”

The results speak for themselves. Whether it be battling back from an injury or from being benched to multiple underclassmen, Coan has continued to answer the bell when his number has been called with an unwavering confidence.

In fact, since being benched for the second time against Virginia Tech, Coan and the Irish offense have reached new heights. In the past four games, Notre Dame is averaging over 34 points and 440 total yards per game. Over the previous four games, the Irish were averaging 28 points and 332 total yards per game.

Coan believes the offensive evolution has coincided with his own.

“I think first and foremost, the coaches put in a great plan for us and overall just the players trusting the plan. I think a lot of it comes down to my play, and me following the plan and doing what I'm supposed to, making sure we have the right protection on and things like that,” Coan said.

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has been crucial to Coan’s development, and Coan didn’t hold back in his appreciation for Notre Dame’s second-year play-caller.

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“[Coach Rees is] an unbelievable offensive coordinator, play caller, quarterback coach and I'm really thankful I chose to come here and learn under him because he's taught me so much more about the game and taken my football IQ and play to a different level,” Coan said.

“He's a super competitive guy and he always wants to put his players in the best positions, he cares about his players so much," Coan continued. "Whatever we do, he demands the most out of us. He gets on us when we need it. He just demands so much out of us, which is great.”

With the season winding down, Coan feels as though his biggest improvements have come in terms of game management.

“I think I've grown the most probably in my decision making and making quicker decisions throughout the year," Coan noted. "Just getting the ball out of my hand a little bit. I'd say also just protection-wise, understanding where the pressure can come from, when we could change a protection and things like that."

Ever since the Irish offense ramped up the tempo after the bye week and allowed Coan to make those quick decisions and short throws, the success has been undeniable. In the last four games, Coan is completing 73 percent of his passes and has thrown for 803 yards and six touchdowns.

It’s been a roller-coaster of a season for Coan in terms of speed and fluctuation, so when the Irish take on Georgia Tech on Saturday for the final home game of the season, Coan won’t be taking anything for granted.

“To be honest, I’m just going to try to soak it all in. My last one in Notre Dame Stadium. It’s crazy how quick it’s gone and it’s going to be emotional but I’m going to do my best to fight back those emotions and just focus on the game,” Coan said. “I love football and I love Notre Dame, so it’s definitely going to be crazy thinking it’s my last time there,” Coan added.

With a path to the College Football Playoff still uncertain for the Irish, Coan may not be able to capture the national championship he originally intended to. Even still, Coan is grateful for his time spent in South Bend.

“I’d say it’s exceeded expectations. You’re not really sure when you come to a program like Notre Dame that’s been so successful exactly how everything is going to be run, but from day one it was such a blue-collared program and to see how hard everyone’s worked from the time I got here; the coaching staff, the strength staff, the way everyone’s worked throughout this has been special for me and it’s been cool to learn about this winning culture.” 

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