Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Book Eyes Improvement As Irish Move Ahead

September 3, 2019

Notre Dame officially lists quarterback Ian Book at 6 feet, one-eighth of an inch tall and 212 pounds.

It’s a much heavier existence, however, according to coach Brian Kelly. Twice Monday night --- at halftime and again postgame --- Kelly said his quarterback Book had “the weight of the world on his shoulders” as the ninth-ranked Irish opened their season at Louisville.

While Book didn’t have his cleanest game, with two fumbles, one of which Louisville recovered, he did lead the Irish on five touchdown drives in Notre Dame’s 35-17 road debut.

This, despite it being Book’s first-ever season-opening start for the Irish. This, despite the Irish offense missing the banged-up Jafar Armstrong for the majority of the game.

“First game, maybe some jitters, great environment here, Louisville played great, respect them, great opponent,” said Book, who immediately took ownership of the ND offense’s first half lull after it scored a quick touchdown on its opening possession. “Just gotta put that behind us, but at the end of the day, we’re happy we’re 1-0 and we’re gonna learn from this. Now we know what it’s like.

“Sloppy football. But like I said, happy to move on from that and have some guys step up and be able to score touchdowns.”

Book completed 14 of 23 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He connected a combined eight times with veteran wideout Chase Claypool and pressed-into-starting-duties tight end Tommy Tremble. The duo’s eight catches covered 143 of Book’s aerial yardage, and Tremble banged in on a 26-yard connection that doubled Notre Dame’s lead to 28-14 and effectively quelled Louisville’s upset-bid.

“We have a lot of young guys that can step up and play and that we can put some big early mistakes behind us and forget about that and move on,” said Book, now 10-1 since taking over as starter last year. “It’s huge for us, especially as an offense; didn’t start the way we wanted to. I take a lot of credit for that. Wanted to put that behind us, make plays, forget about it and move on.”

With Armstrong missing from both the Irish ground game and his presence out of the passing attack, Notre Dame got its second career 100-yard game from senior tailback Tony Jones Jr., who had 110 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries, while Jahmir Smith eased Armstrong’s absence with 30 yards that included a pair of short scoring surges.

“Just having those running backs step up,” Book said. “Tony obviously had a really great night tonight. Being able to see both Kyren (Williams) and Jahmir and C’Bo (Flemister) get in there and make some plays, that’s what I was talking about earlier (in camp) with the amount of running backs we have, it showed (Monday night).”

While Book didn’t think he displayed the progress that left his coaches and teammates raving about his preseason work, he did like the overall response of the Notre Dame offense. The Irish amassed 423 total yards, including 230 on the ground with 81 of that supplied by Book, and committed just the one turnover in 65 snaps. They were four-for-four in the red zone, flagged just four times for 20 yards as a team and uncorked 14 chunk plays (five passing plays of 15-plus yards; nine runs of 10-plus).

“Not in the first half, just felt a little rusty. Got a lot to learn from,” Book said. “Gotta move on. Excited to go back and watch film and move on from it.

“In terms of a lot of guys on the team that I saw make plays for us throughout the spring, throughout the summer, showed (Monday night). So that’s really good for our offense, really exciting to see.”

Most importantly, it’s win No. 1. And was the Irish’s first chance to notch a road win on a brutal gauntlet that later features marquee matchups at Georgia, at Michigan and at Stanford.

“It’s huge; we talk about it this whole entire year. We want to be road warriors,” Book said. “This was the first one, so it feels good to walk away 1-0.

“We’ve got a lot of other hard road games and I think this was just like the first step in getting guys prepared.”

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