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‘Fight to win’: Jack Coan to face alma mater in Shamrock Series as his game evolves

| Friday, September 24, 2021

Graduate student quarterback Jack Coan has certainly not had the traditional experience of a Notre Dame quarterback. Between transferring in for his final year of eligibility, battling it out among two other contenders for the top spot and ultimately sharing field time with a true freshman, Coan’s journey has been one of uncertainty and, in many respects, excitement. The quarterback has continuously mentioned how much of a dream it is to be playing in the house that Rockne built, both for him and his family, and he is not taking a single day for granted. In many respects, it is that reverence of his position that has been fueling the mentality he maintains: Fight to win.

Despite missed opportunities on the field, Coan has focused on his effort and the ultimate objective: winning. Kelly has mentioned that he is one of the hardest working members of the team, and that translates into the QB1’s gameplay. This is especially true in the match against Toledo, when Coan’s finger popped out of place mid-game. After rushing to the sideline to have it pushed back in, he immediately threw the winning touchdown pass, exemplifying his grit in leaving everything on the field.

“I mean, it was an unbelievable moment,” Coan said of the play. “The line did a great job protecting, and you know obviously Mike [Mayer] made a great move to get open and an unbelievable catch and finish. It was pretty crazy.”

That idea of only focusing on what he himself can do has helped Coan manage the season and its stressors. Especially with the introduction of Tyler Buchner into the fray, Coan has had to laser in on what really matters.

“The only thing I care about is winning,” Coan said. “Now whether that’s me, Tyler, Drew [Pyne], anyone. Whoever gives us the best chance to win, I’m all in favor of them.”

That is not to say that Coan does not care whether he is on the field; on the contrary, capitalizing on and appreciating his time are of the utmost importance. Coan recalled what it was like for him to play in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time and the significance of the day for him.

“It was amazing. I mean, it was definitely a dream come true,” Coan said. “It didn’t even feel real at moments, just with the player walk and hitting the sign for the first time, hearing in the band playing, the crowd. It was an unbelievable moment that I’ll always remember and cherish.”

Especially given how close the contests have been early on in the season, living in the moment and taking it day by day is the only way to move forward. Looking too far down the line can make one lose sight of the tasks at hand.

“I mean, you look at the first few games, everything’s been coming down to the wire, so obviously you can’t look too far out about anything,” Coan said. “All you have is the game in front of you, and you never know what can happen, whether it’s injuries or things like that. So you just try to cherish every moment and stay in the moment.”

Looking ahead now, however, the elephant in the stadium will be the team in red that Coan and the Irish face on Saturday. The quarterback has been asked about this game against his alma mater from before the season even began, and with the moment at hand, his mentality has not changed. 

Many people have asked Coan whether or not he has an added incentive to win this weekend, with personal reasons coming into play. He was steadfast in saying he has no reason to take one game more personally than others, and that he simply wants to win this battle as equally as the rest of them.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely gonna be weird,” Coan said on the topic of playing against his friends. “But I think at the end of the day it’s just another football game, and I like to think I don’t get too excited, or more excited, for one game than the next. But it’ll certainly be a pretty cool atmosphere, and we’re playing against a great team, so it’ll be fun.”

Despite playing against his friends and former teammates, Coan says he wishes them nothing but the best and is looking to have fun competing against them this weekend. However, there is still a job to get done, a job that Coan fully acknowledges. He noted that the Badgers have one of the best defenses in the country, which will make them a challenge for him and the Irish offense. As someone who went up against this unit at practice every day for four years, Coan is familiar with their style of play, but by no means knows all of the stops they are going to pull.

“I had a general sense of what they like to do, but I never really paid attention to what they do in games, really, how they gameplan and why they switch things up,” Coan said. “I’m definitely going to have to continue to study them, but also, try to help out as much as I can in the game plan.”

For himself and his offense, their leg up will be that “fight to win” mindset. Coan noted that improvements have to be made to sure up their system, and that everyone’s hard work is showing in their performances. Though they took a step forward against Purdue, he said, they need to focus on getting more consistent. Should they get secure in both the running and passing game, Coan asserts that they are “gonna be a pretty difficult offense to stop.” Coan himself threw a few passes just out of reach of his receivers in the game against Purdue, and he is focusing on fixing his timing and accuracy heading into Saturday.

“I think I could do a lot better job helping out as well, just getting the ball out of my hands and communicating better,” Coan said. “I might have been a little impatient in the beginning, just trying not to take sacks and getting the ball out of my hands, but I definitely could have been a little more patient.”

Despite some off throws, Coan utilized wide receiver Avery Davis consistently against Purdue, an avenue that he may have missed in previous games. He said that the talent among the receivers is widespread, and that he does not have to rely on one person to move the ball forward. Instead, he should be focusing on making the right reads and getting through progressions, and he is excited to continue to expand their arsenal in terms of playmakers.

“I think the game plan changes every week,” Coan said. “Different stuff happens in the game as well and you can’t always feed the same guys over and over again. I think we have a lot of weapons on offense that we could utilize.”

The offensive line, on the other hand, has been a talking point of the season. Many have commented on their inexperience and struggles, but Coan stands behind his teammates.

“I think they’re doing an unbelievable job,” Coan said. “They’re truly working as hard as any unit in the country right now, and I know they want to get better, just like I want to get better too. So I think they’re right where they should be right now and I have total confidence in them with everything.”

Again, it goes back to that same mentality of putting in the work — the grit — to get the win. Though sometimes it falls short, the effort itself is not diminished.

“I think that’s the cool part about football is it doesn’t always have to be perfect,” Coan said. “It’s just got to be a complete game you just gotta fight till the end.”

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