Notre Dame 'finger popper' plays big hand in Irish comeback victory over Toledo
SOUTH BEND — Maybe Mike Bean should have received the game ball after No. 8 Notre Dame’s 32-29 victory over Toledo.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly actually awarded the game ball to linebacker JD Bertrand, who led the Irish with 11 tackles and recovered a Toledo fumble to secure the victory in the final minute. But Bean, a Notre Dame athletic trainer, deserved some recognition for setting up the heroics of quarterback Jack Coan.
Before Coan delivered the game-winning touchdown pass of 18 yards to tight end Michael Mayer, the graduate transfer from Wisconsin ran to the sideline between plays with the middle finger of his throwing hand clearly out of place.
The injury seemingly occurred when Coan was hit by former Notre Dame linebacker Jonathan Jones after Coan released an incomplete pass intended for Mayer. Fellow Toledo linebacker Dyontae Jones was flagged for pass interference, which gave Coan a little bit of extra time to head to the sideline between plays.
Coan waved the middle finger seeking medical attention before Bean stepped onto the field to come to the rescue. Kelly, who struggled to find the right terminology to describe what Bean did to help Coan, confirmed that Coan dislocated his finger on the play.
“He pulled the finger, got it back in place, and the next play we were throwing the verticals,” Kelly said. “We went four verticals, brought the tight end to the backside hash, and Jack steps up. We're going to have Bean work on his hand more often.”
Coan didn’t throw a tight spiral, but the determination to remain in the game impressed his teammates.
“It was kind of crazy,” said running back Chris Tyree. “When he came to the sideline running and pointing to his fingers. That shows his intensity and his mentality. Being able to show that grit was really important for our offense. It was a great performance by him.”
Coan finished 21-of-33 passing (63.6%) for 239 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. But no throw was more important than Coan’s last, which was assisted by Bean.
“Big ups to Mike Bean, the finger popper,” tweeted former Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Finke. “Got that thing back in place in 3 seconds under pressure…You’re either clutch or you’re not.”