The Journal Gazette
Saturday, October 09, 2021 11:30 pm

From benched to hero: Coan leads Irish to victory

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Jack Coan was benched. Then he was the hero.

The much-maligned Notre Dame quarterback led the No. 14 Irish on a 75-yard game-tying touchdown drive in the final minutes of the fourth quarter against Virginia Tech on Saturday night in Blacksburg, Virginia, and followed that with a drive for a game-winning Jonathan Doerer field goal in the final seconds to give the Irish a stunning 32-29 victory at Lane Stadium.

Coan, who started the contest and was pulled in the second quarter with the Irish trailing 10-0, re-entered the game with 3:55 to play and Notre Dame (5-1) trailing 29-21. He got the Irish moving with a 23-yard pass to senior receiver Avery Davis and three plays later found Davis again for a 4-yard touchdown. A Coan pass to Kevin Austin on the 2-point conversion knotted the score at 29 with 2:26 still to play.

Notre Dame's defense turned in a three-and-out on the next Virginia Tech possession and the Irish got the ball back at their own 25 with 1:56 left. Coan again led the charge, finding Braden Lenzy for 20 yards and then tight end George Takacs – his first catch of the season – for 15 more into field-goal range.

Doerer's decisive boot came from 48 yards out, his second game-winner this season following a 41-yard kick on the final play the Week 1 win against Florida State.

Prior to Coan's heroics, the Irish had been led at quarterback by true freshman Tyler Buchner, who entered the game when Coan was ineffective early. Buchner led three touchdown drives, one that ended in his own 3-yard rushing score and another that saw him find Kyren Williams for an 8-yard touchdown pass, putting the Irish ahead 14-10 late in the first half.

Williams scored on a bruising 10-yard run in the third quarter to put Notre Dame in front again at 21-16, but Buchner gave the Hokies the lead shortly thereafter when he threw a pick-six to Virginia Tech's Jermaine Waller that pushed the score to 22-21.

Buchner, who had 113 passing yards and 67 on the ground, suffered a lower-body injury in the fourth quarter that knocked him out and left Coan to lead the tying and winning drives in the final minutes. His status going forward is unclear.

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