Jack Coan and Notre Dame beat his former team, Wisconsin

Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and Wisconsin looked suspenseful even before the two teams entered the field. Did Wisconsin coach Pa...


Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and Wisconsin looked suspenseful even before the two teams entered the field. Did Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst make the right decision in retaining quarterback Graham Mertz against Jack Coan? How would Coan, now Notre Dame quarterback, fare against his former team? Would this game add Coan to a growing list of quarterback transfers that elevate their new programs when they arrive?

Coan only had three quarters to make his case. He appeared to hurt his leg after picking up a sack in the third quarter, and after cautiously leaving the field, he did not return. He didn’t miss the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish much, knocking down the Wisconsin No.18, 41-13, with third-string quarterback Drew Pyne leading the offense at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The victory was Brian Kelly’s 106th as Notre Dame head coach, surpassing Knute Rockne’s previous program record.

Kelly said after the game that Coan had a soft tissue injury but clean x-rays, and that he was optimistic Coan would return next week against Cincinnati.

Before leaving the game, however, Coan showed why Kelly trusted the graduate quarterback to lead the program. He had 158 passing yards and a touchdown behind a struggling Notre Dame offensive line that was intimidated by Wisconsin’s teeming defensive front.

Coan announced his decision to transfer to Notre Dame in January after starting 18 games in Wisconsin and guiding the Badgers to a 10-4 record and a Rose Bowl appearance in 2019.

He suffered a right foot injury last October, ahead of the start of the Big Ten’s delayed 2020 season, and has not appeared in a game. Red-shirted sophomore Mertz, who took Coan’s place, remains the incumbent from Wisconsin.

But on Saturday, Coan looked more solid than Mertz, who threw four interceptions, including two back-to-back interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by the Irish in the fourth quarter.

Coan is one of a host of players who take advantage each season of the NCAA graduate transfer rule, which allows players who have earned their bachelor’s degree to move on to a graduate program elsewhere and play immediately, as long as ‘They haven’t used their five-year eligibility.

Earlier this year, the NCAA made it easier to transfer and play for players of all sports, even those who have yet to graduate. A new rule, which was approved by the NCAA’s Division I board in April, allows one unrestricted transfer per player, meaning transfers wouldn’t have to stop for a season or apply for eligibility immediate through exemptions after changing schools. The rule change has already caused a mass exodus of male basketball players to the transfer portal.

Critics of the new rule argue that it allows players to walk away from a team instead of trying to improve their current situation.

Barry Alvarez, the former soccer coach and athletic director of Wisconsin, said the onus is on the coaches in these situations.

“Am I in favor of the global transfer, an open transfer like that?” Hey, ”Alvarez said in a phone interview. He added: “When I was sporting director, I told my coaches: ‘You recruit the players. You see how they are. You see what kind of experience they have, what kind of players they are. And it’s your responsibility to build a rapport that they want to play for you. But there comes a time when the young man’s best interest is to go elsewhere.

Alvarez said he believes Coan handled the situation with Wisconsin well, adding that it “worked positively” for Coan and the Badgers.

In 2011, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took advantage of the graduate transfer rule when he moved from North Carolina state to Wisconsin. A three-year starter at NC State, Wilson lost his starting job after missing the team’s spring training to attend the Colorado Rockies’ spring training (Colorado drafted Wilson in the fourth round in 2010).

“Russell is a great example,” said Alvarez, who was the Badgers’ athletic director when Wilson transferred to the program. “He got an ultimatum there. They had a good young quarterback, and he made the decision to come here. Good situation for us. Good for Russell.

Wilson’s move has opened up opportunities for quarterbacks like Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts to take similar paths. Hurts lost his starting job in Alabama to Tua Tagovailoa and played for Oklahoma in their final season of eligibility. Burrow was transferred from the state of Ohio to the state of Louisiana after Dwayne Haskins beat him for the starting position in 2018.

Justin Fields, now the Chicago Bears quarterback, transferred out of Georgia in 2019 after sitting behind Jake Fromm for a year. Fields, a freshman in a red shirt when he left Georgia, did not benefit from graduate transfer rules, but the NCAA granted immediate eligibility to Fields via a hardship waiver.

Burrow, Hurts and Fields showed the potential of transfers to have a profound impact on a program after seeking a better opportunity: All three led their new teams to the college football playoffs. Burrow’s 2019 LSU team went undefeated en route to a national title.

Could Coan be next in line?

He got Notre Dame off to a 4-0 start after Saturday’s win over the Badgers. So far this season, he’s thrown nine touchdowns with two interceptions. On his first start for the Irish, he threw more than 300 yards with four touchdowns against Florida State as Notre Dame avoided a Seminole return.

In Saturday’s game, despite pressure from a blitz-happy Wisconsin defense that at times forced him to stray throws, Coan did what he had done right in the team’s first three games: he limited turnovers and wasn’t afraid to shoot on the field.

Coan had the best play of the first half when he dropped the ball straight into the hands of wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. on a ball deep along the left sideline, which was good for a touchdown. 36 yards.

After Coan’s exit, the Irish scored 31 points in the fourth quarter: Chris Tyree returned a 96-yard kickoff for a score, Austin caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Pyne, and the defense pushed back two interceptions.

Notre Dame has appeared in two college football playoff games, appearing severely outmatched in both – a 30-3 loss to Clemson in 2018 and a 31-14 loss to Alabama in January. Coan’s ability to push his new program beyond his previous playoff woes remains to be seen, but the Irish at least appear to be on the verge of it.

“Everyone’s trying to hook the teams up from the start, like, okay, ‘Who are they?’,” Kelly said. “We are still trying to understand each other. But everyone has already figured out who we are. I just know it’s a resilient group who believe they’re going to win.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Jack Coan and Notre Dame beat his former team, Wisconsin
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