In recent Notre Dame quarterback lore, Sayville’s Jack Coan isn’t Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, or Ian Book yet, but Sunday night was a very good start.
The former Sayville High School star and Wisconsin transfer lit up national television during his debut as starter for the Fighting Irish. Coan set a Notre Dame record for passing yards in a season opener, throwing for 366 and four touchdowns on 26-for-35 passing in the No. 9 Fighting Irish’s 41-38 overtime victory over Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida.
"It was definitely extremely emotional," Coan said in his postgame news conference. "It’s a dream come true for me and my family — to play for this university, play in an iconic place in college football like this. It’s just unbelievable and I’m so thankful for it."
Notre Dame blow an 18-point lead, but escaped when Jonathan Doerer hit a 41-yard field goal in overtime.
"I think it was a little too exciting for my liking," Coan said. "I would have liked to win by a little bit more or something like that. It was pretty stressful. But, it was amazing and something I’ll always remember."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he liked the way Coan pushed the ball down the field and how he led the offense emotionally.
"I loved his demeanor on the sideline," Kelly said Monday. He’s a great communicator. [The team] got the kind of information you’re looking for from him."
Stretching the field with his arm was a theme all game. Coan threw touchdown passes of 41, 23, 37, and 6 yards.
"Before the game, [offensive coordinator Tommy] Rees talked about being in attack mode and taking those shots when they present itself," Coan said. "I think that’s a big part to playing quarterback, taking the shots when they’re there, and when they’re not there just taking the check down."
The pass-heavy nature of the Notre Dame offense was a surprise to some, but not Coan.
"I think I learned early on when I got here that that was their p"lan for the offense," he said. "I think it’s a great idea. You always have to have some big chunk plays in a game to be successful and make it easier on the offense."
The performance wasn’t tremendously surprising to Kelly. Coan has had success at a high level before, leading Wisconsin to a 10-4 record, a Big Ten West Division title, and a Rose Bowl berth as a junior in 2019.
"It’s all the things that we had surmised with a guy that’s been in it before," Kelly said. "The moment wasn’t too big for him, obviously. You go on the road, in that kind of environment, you worry about how you’re going to handle it. He did a terrific job."
At Wisconsin, Coan threw for 2,727 yards in 2019 with 18 touchdown passes and five interceptions. After missing training camp in 2020 with a foot injury, he lost his starting job to freshman Graham Mertz, after which Coan entered the transfer portal and found his way to South Bend, where he had committed to play lacrosse in high school before deciding to join the Badgers to play quarterback.
For comparison, Mertz threw for 185 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions in Wisconsin’s 16-10 loss to Penn State Saturday afternoon.
The returns of the quarterback split are extremely early, but after Week 1 — advantage Coan and Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish face Toledo in their home opener 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Notre Dame and Wisconsin play each other on Sept. 25 at Soldier Field in Chicago.