BlueAndGold - What they're saying about Notre Dame's close win over Toledo

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Irish Illustrated 12 September, 2021 - 06:00pm 5 views

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Who won the Notre Dame game today?

No. 8 Notre Dame survived a massive scare from upset-minded Toledo on Saturday afternoon in South Bend in a 32-29 win. CBSSports.comNotre Dame vs. Toledo score: Fighting Irish overcome turnovers and late scare to survive and advance

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Briggs: Toledo should be proud of Rockets after all-time performance

Toledo Blade 13 September, 2021 - 02:10am

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — How’s that for premium content, Notre Dame?

On a day to deposit straight into Toledo lore, the Rockets gave the Irish — and the hearts of fans watching here and on Peacock — everything they could handle, damn near pulling off the greatest win in the 104-year history of the program.

With respect to Touchdown Jesus, Holy Toledo, indeed.

And what a performance by the Rockets, who answered one shot after another from the No. 8 team in the country, then delivered what seemed to be the biggest one of them all with 1:35 remaining.

When Dequan Finn ran in for a 26-yard touchdown that nudged the visitors ahead 29-24, you should have heard Notre Dame Stadium, the corner pocket of 5,000 gold-clad Toledo fans roaring like they never had before, the rest of the place quiet.

The Rockets really were going to do it, and, in that moment, no dream for the season — didn’t matter how big — was off the table.

Of course, you know what happened next.

Wake up the echoes, good night, Toledo. Notre Dame escaped with a 32-29 victory. 

“Just came up a little bit short,” coach Jason Candle said of a distance that would have taken the chain gang to measure.

We could analyze why and break down the final two minutes, including what went wrong about what went right. For instance, there were no small number of fans on social media who suggested Finn should have went down just short of the goal line on his go-ahead run, thus allowing Toledo — which trailed 24-22 — to take a knee three times before attempting a field goal in the dying seconds.

I get the thinking, given Notre Dame had one timeout remaining, and, sure, I especially get it in hindsight, given the Irish recaptured the lead in a cool 26 seconds.

I also completely disagree — you don’t instruct your team to leave the game to the whims of an everything-on-the-line field goal, chip shot or not — and, so, for the record, does Candle.

“I'm not going to ask that kid [to do that] in that situation,” he said. “First of all, great play by the kid to get the touchdown. Hindsight is 20-20. Maybe you can make that argument. We got a score there, and you have to win the football game.”

As much as we’ll have to talk about when the haze of this back-and-forth thriller clears — including Toledo’s ongoing penalty issues and the disjointed nature of a two-quarterback system (pick someone!) — the focus today deserves to be not on what the Rockets lost but what they gained.

And that’s a ton of respect.

Toledo may have had reason to be confident, including its history this century on the tallest stages in the sport. Consider its most recent forays into blue-blood settings. The Rockets thumped Penn State 24-6 in 2000, won 13-10 at Michigan in 2008, and, by all rights, should have beaten Ohio State in a 27-22 loss in 2011.

But, be honest, no one could have foreseen this, the visitors looking as good and physical — if not at times better and more physical — as a top-10 opponent in its home stadium.

Usually, in these kind of games, the biggest mismatch is on the lines.

And Saturday was no different, except this time it was the smaller school taking the sledgehammer to the bigger one. Incredibly, that’s what it felt like much of the afternoon, namely on defense. While the veteran Rockets held their own on both lines, their defensive front didn’t control the point of attack so much as they dominated it, pushing around an Irish program that prides itself on doing the moving of heaven and turf up front.

Six sacks. Eleven tackles for a loss. Six quarterback hurries. Two forced fumbles. (Between the Irish’s opening and closing 75-yard drives — yeah, yeah, no small detail — Toledo held Notre Dame to 299 yards.)

“Toledo played great,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Hats off to Toledo. Jason and his staff did a terrific job. They were well prepared, well coached and players played really well. They're gonna have a fine season.”

No argument from us. Here was a team that looked like one of the top Group of Five programs, let alone the class of the MAC. (For context, preseason league favorite Ball State lost 44-13 at No. 11 Penn State.)

“I'm proud of the team,” said cornerback Chris McDonald, whose pick-six just before the half electrified the Rockets. “I've been here three years. I've never seen us be that tough. I love what we have.”

After Saturday, so should Toledo fans.

First Published September 12, 2021, 2:14am

@NDFootball | ICON - Toledo (9.12.21)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 13 September, 2021 - 02:10am

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Upon further review, the Toledo football team did make history with its performance at Notre Dame on Saturday.

For the first time in school history, it gained votes in the AP Top 25 poll after a ... loss.

I should know, because I’m the one who gave ‘em to the Rockets, putting Toledo 24th on my latest ballot.

Call me a provincial moron — and let the record state that I have neither a connection to UT nor a dog in the fight — or the only voter who watched the Rockets’ streaming-only 32-29 loss to then-No. 8 Notre Dame.

If voters believe the Irish are one of the top teams in the country — and, yes, that’s debatable — let us then credit the school that woulda, coulda, shoulda handed them their first home loss since September, 2017.

Most will disagree. OK, everyone will, given I was the only one of 63 AP voters to ride with the Rockets, and that’s fine. Each panelist has their own way of ranking teams.

Me, I try to weigh both the subjective and the objective — what we think and what we know.

Do I think Toledo is one of the top 25 teams in the country? Nope, not at the moment.

But I know what I saw Saturday, which is the Rockets appearing the equal — if not the physical superior — of a top-10 team for large chunks of the afternoon.

And, at some point, the games — and, specifically, the tenor of them — ought to matter.

If the contest had been freaky and fluky, I’d have a different opinion. But there was nothing accidental about it.

This was Toledo staring down and taking it to the Irish. You could have cloaked its defensive front seven in the uniform of any Big Ten school and no one would have batted an eye. Actually, that’s not true. Everyone would have, because nobody does what the Rockets did to Notre Dame and its traditionally mauling front. Six sacks, six quarterback hurries, 11 tackles for a loss? You kidding? Alabama had two sacks, no hurries, and three tackles for a loss in its playoff win over the Irish last year.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking: Is Notre Dame really that good? And if we’re in the business of rewarding close-but-no-Gatorade-bath performances, what about the other ones? Shouldn’t Tulane be ranked for throwing a scare into No. 3 Oklahoma? How about Fresno State, which lost 31-24 at No. 4 Oregon last week?

I have no idea about Notre Dame, which needed overtime to beat a meh Florida State team in its opener. (The Seminoles got off the mat and responded with a ... 20-17 loss to FCS Jacksonville State.) I have the Irish 10th, two spots down from their ranking last week and two spots ahead of their ranking this week.

But while the Irish may well be in for a down year, they’ve also earned the benefit of the doubt, even in a transition year. This wasn’t Toledo catching Notre Dame at the perfect time, as it did in wins at Penn State and Michigan in 2000 and 2008 and its near-upset at Ohio State in 2011 (the traditional powers went 5-7, 3-9, and 6-7 in those seasons, respectively). At least it didn’t feel that way, given the Irish’s two playoff trips in the past three years and production line of blue-chip talent.

As for rewarding a loss, I can’t speak as well to the feel and flow of other near upsets. (A dirty little secret: The AP voters spend their Saturdays covering their local teams, meaning they catch only bits and pieces of the other games around the country. I’m no different, even as I watch and read as much as I can.)

But I can speak to what I saw here Saturday, just as a voter in Arkansas or Idaho or Hawaii — or in any of the 41 states represented on the panel — can best attest to the games he or she watched.

And what I saw, for one Saturday, at least, was a Toledo team on the same physical plane as a team voters still contend is the 12th-best football outfit in the country.

That’s my ranking, and, until next week, I’m sticking to it.

First Published September 12, 2021, 11:10pm

Opening lines: Toledo favored by nearly 2 touchdowns against Colorado State

247Sports 12 September, 2021 - 07:39pm

For the second straight week, oddsmakers quickly shifted a betting line in the direction of the University of Toledo football team.

The Rockets (1-1), who lost 32-29 at Notre Dame after the then-No. 8 Fighting Irish drove the length of the field in the final two minutes, were installed by the FanDuel Sportsbook as 13-point home favorites against Colorado State (0-2) for Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at the Glass Bowl (TV: ESPNU). The line has since shifted to 13½ points, with an over/under of 58.

A week ago, Toledo opened as an 18½-point underdog against Notre Dame. That betting line quickly shifted in the Rockets’ direction, and by Saturday morning UT was just a 16½-point underdog.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, has seen movement on its betting line as it prepares to face in-state rival Purdue (2-0) for the first time in seven years. The Irish (2-0) opened as an 8½-point favorite for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. home game (TV: NBC), but the line has since narrowed to 7½. The over/under is 59.

Following the near-upset against Toledo, Notre Dame dropped four spots to No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25. Toledo picked up two votes in the poll.

Both Ohio State and Michigan open as heavy favorites this week.

Coming off its 35-28 home loss to Oregon that dropped the Buckeyes from third to ninth in the AP poll, Ohio State (1-1) is a 27-point home favorite against Tulsa (0-2). The over/under is 60½ for the 3:30 p.m. game Saturday (TV: FS1).

Michigan (2-0), a 31-10 winner over Washington, is a 27-point home favorite against Northern Illinois (1-1). The over/under is 55 for the noon kickoff Saturday (TV: BTN), with the Wolverines joining the Top 25 this week in the No. 25 spot.

FanDuel did not post a line on Bowling Green’s home game with FCS member Murray State. The Falcons (0-2) host the Racers (1-1) at 5 p.m. at Doyt Perry Stadium (Streaming: ESPN3).

Alabama and Georgia retain the top two spots in the AP poll. Oklahoma climbed a spot to third, while Oregon jumped eight spots to fourth. Iowa jumped five spots to fifth following its victory over Iowa State.

Among teams of regional interest, Cincinnati is eighth (down from seventh), Penn State is 10th (up from 11th), Iowa State is 14th (down from ninth), and Wisconsin is 18th (unchanged).

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