After close call, No. 8 Irish come home to face Toledo

Field Level Media

September 08, 2021 at 6:12 am.

No. 8 Notre Dame is looking for a cleaner performance when it hosts Toledo on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

The Fighting Irish (1-0) are coming off a turbulent victory in their opening game against Florida State on Sunday night. Notre Dame blew an 18-point, fourth-quarter advantage but emerged with a 41-38 win in overtime.

Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said a film review of the game showed plenty of room for improvement.

“When you are up 38-20 on the road and you give that lead up, many teams do not get out of there with a victory,” Kelly said. “Our guys hung in there. We came up with the big stop when we needed it defensively. They just showed their mettle and grit.

“As I said (Sunday), I really like this group. We’ve got a lot to do, a lot of work to clean up.”

The next opportunity will come against Toledo (1-0), which posted a dominant 49-10 win over Norfolk State on Saturday. The Rockets shined on defense and special teams, notching two touchdowns off blocked punts.

This will be the first meeting between the programs.

Toledo is 9-17 against top-25 ranked teams in its history. The Rockets’ last win over a ranked opponent was in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, when it knocked off No. 24 Temple.

“We’re looking forward to going out, playing a great football team and giving it our best shot,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said.

Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan will try to build upon his impressive debut for the program. The graduate transfer completed 26 of 35 passes for 366 yards, four touchdowns and one interception against the Seminoles.

“(Coan) pushed the ball well down the field,” Kelly said. “I thought we protected darn well. (But) we’re going to (have to) run the ball a little better.”

Notre Dame notched only 65 rushing yards on 35 attempts. The team’s offensive line features several new starters, and freshman left tackle Blake Fisher left last week’s contest because of a knee injury.

Star running back Kyren Williams struggled, as did his teammates who tried to carry the ball. Williams, a preseason All-American, had 18 carries for 42 yards as part of an underwhelming performance.

Toledo relied upon two quarterbacks in its opening win. Carter Bradley completed 8 of 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, and teammate Dequan Finn completed 4 of 5 passes for 38 yards. Finn also had a 24-yard rushing TD.

Bryant Koback added 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground for Toledo.

Notre Dame cannot afford to overlook its opponent from the Mid-American Conference, Kelly said.

“We’re playing a really good team in Toledo,” Kelly said. “After watching their film, this is probably the finest MAC team that we’ve brought into the stadium since I’ve been here. So we’re going to have to be prepared, and we’re on a short week.”

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