Staff predictions 2021: Toledo Rockets
Aidan Thomas | Friday, September 10, 2021
Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer
Three days later and my heart rate still hasn’t really recovered from Sunday night. That game was closer than I ever wanted it to be, but I took more positives than negatives from the performance. The passing offense was far better than expected, the play calling actually had some creativity at times and the defense forced three turnovers. Jonathan Doerer was 7-7 on kick attempts, including the game-winner. There were struggles on the new-look offensive line, which led to struggles in the run game. And there were questionable play calls from Marcus Freeman after what had been a very solid defense for three quarters, sans a couple of big plays.
Mannion McGinley — Sports Editor
Sunday night’s game had an end no one expected and my immediate reaction was “Oh no. I can NOT do this all season.” Then the stats came out the next day, and the reality of it all was that the Irish played really well. A Milton-led FSU was just better than expected. What does concern me is how quickly injuries popped up but even then, the guys who stepped in for Fisher and Liufau were ready to play.
Nate Moller — Sports Writer
After an emotional, stressful victory in Tallahassee, the Irish travel back home for their home opener against MAC opponent Toledo. There were a lot of positive and negative takeaways from the performance against Florida State. Jack Coan and the Irish passing game was arguably the best part of the Irish win on Sunday. Coan commanded the offense and made some big-time throws when needed. The incorporation of wide receivers Kevin Austin Jr. and Joe Wilkins Jr. into the passing game alongside tight end Michael Mayer should be a great combination going forward. I would love to see the Irish utilize Braden Lenzy and Avery Davis more going forward as well. The offensive line could be an issue for the Irish, especially with left tackle Blake Fisher out for some time. The defense will have to improve as well, as Florida State found a way to run and pass the ball very consistently against the Irish in the fourth quarter.
Emily DeFazio — Associate Sports Editor
I am warier of my prediction this week than I was for FSU, given that all of our forecasts were far from what actually occurred in Tallahassee that night. Never had it crossed my mind that the season opener would be a close battle, and an overtime road victory at that. That being said, it also hadn’t crossed my mind that certain aspects of the Irish game could be better than I expected. Jonathan Doerer went from completing only 65% of his field goal attempts in 2020 to posting a perfect night and eventually winning the game for Notre Dame. I was also thoroughly impressed at the passing game on offense; Jack Coan’s debut proved to be one of the instrumental parts of the victory and, frankly, one of the most enjoyable aspects to watch. Kevin Austin Jr. had a career night because of this, and I anticipate Coan’s arm to become a more integral part of the offense in the future.
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
The perfect cap to a Labor Day weekend of football proved to be a stressful affair for Irish fans. They escaped Tallahassee with a win but it was surely not in a fashion that anyone was expecting. I think we can chalk this up to first-game jitters, playing in an atmosphere unlike anything they had experienced in the past year. Not to mention the fact that they were battling a team that was coming into that atmosphere at Doak Campbell Stadium honoring ’Noles legend Bobby Bowden, hungry for a win and looking to make a statement on national television.
Colin Capece — Assistant Managing Editor
The Irish came away with a victory last week in Tallahassee and that’s really what matters, but they sure did everything they could have to blow their season opener in the second half. I predicted last week that the Irish would come out of the gate fast and bury Florida State later on, and they certainly looked the part with a perfect opening drive that included four pass plays and zero (zero!) run plays. But the Irish let Florida State claw their way back and erase an 18-point deficit before needing a missed field goal in overtime to squeeze out a victory on the road.
There’s a laundry list of things the Irish need to improve after Week 1, but the most glaring is the run defense. Notre Dame gave up 264 yards on the ground and let FSU tailback Jashaun Corbin break an 89-yard touchdown run. As Brian Kelly alluded to after the game, Notre Dame did not execute well at all and had missed tackles in both the backfield and the open field, which led to a handful of big plays for the Seminoles. The defense will have an opportunity to right the ship against Toledo at home, a team that the Irish should be able to dominate at the line of scrimmage. The offense also needs to continue with the aggressive play calling that Tommy Rees utilized from the jump because Jack Coan is clearly an offensive difference-maker. I expect him to throw early and often against the Rockets to put them on their heels before Kyren Williams finds his groove in the second quarter. The Irish are more talented in every facet of the game and should win this one handily.
Notre Dame 48, Toledo 7