No. 8 Notre Dame survives Toledo 32-29 after wild 4Q

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Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) makes a touchdown catch in front of Toledo linebacker Dyontae Johnson (2) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Notre Dame won 32-29. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Jack Coan hit Michael Mayer for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:09 remaining for the third lead change in a wild fourth quarter and No. 8 Notre Dame held off determined Toledo 32-29 Saturday.

The victory preserved a 25-game home winning streak for Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0 independent) and came after Toledo (1-1, 0-1 MAC) had taken a 29-24 lead on freshman quarterback Dequan Finn’s 26-yard bootleg TD run with 1:35 remaining. Finn split playing time with sophomore Carter Bradley, who threw for 213 yards.

Coan, who threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns in Notre Dame’s season-opening 41-38 overtime victory at Florida State last Sunday, shared playing time with true freshman Tyler Buchner. But he directed the three-play, 75-yard scoring drive, which took just 26 seconds with the aid of two Toledo penalties.

Despite being sacked six times, intercepted once by Chris McDonald for a touchdown and fumbling the ball away on another drive, Coan threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns, both to Mayer. Buchner rushed for 68 yards on seven carries and was 3-for-3 passing for 68 yards, including a 55-yard TD pass to Chris Tyree that gave the Fighting Irish a 24-16 lead with 10:57 to play.

Toledo answered with an 8-yard TD run by Bryant Koback with 7:48 left to pull the Rockets to within two. Then, after Kyren Williams fumbled for Notre Dame, the Rockets went 73 yards to the end zone, with Finn putting his team ahead.

The Irish were their own worst enemy in the first half. The Rockets went to the locker room up 16-14 after McDonald’s interception of Coan’s pass intended for Mayer and his 27-yard return for a touchdown with 46 seconds remaining. Toledo’s other points in the half came on three field goals by Thomas Cluckey.

Williams rushed 43 yards for a touchdown on a second-quarter drive led by Buchner to put the Irish up 14-6, then the Rockets scored the half’s final 10 points. Cluckey hit a 23-yard field goal with 1:04 left in the half after Toledo stopped the Irish on a fourth-and-1 run at their own 40 and then McDonald’s interception concluded the scoring.

Coan and Buchner led a 13-play drive that helped the Irish regain the lead, 17-16, on Doerer’s 48-yard field goal with 12:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.


Toledo: The unranked Rockets came to play, staying close to the Irish with big plays off the arm of Bradley and the running of Koback. They forced three turnovers by the Irish and controlled the clock for 30:04 but were outgained by Notre Dame 449-353.

Notre Dame: The Irish defense struggled again, giving up big plays, and Notre Dame had trouble moving the ball behind its rebuilding offensive line. The Irish finished with 132 yards on 39 carries, with Williams gaining 78 on 16 carries.


Despite a close win, Notre Dame could move up a spot depending on poll voters’ opinions of No. 3 Ohio State’s home loss to No. 12 Oregon.


Toledo: Rockets returns home Saturday to play Colorado State.

Notre Dame: Irish are at home Saturday to host Purdue.


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