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Notre Dame Football

Skowronek Shines, But Book Sets Tone for Notre Dame

October 24, 2020

Notre Dame needed to throw the ball down the field on Saturday. 

The world knew Pitt was going to stack the box to stop the Irish rushing attack and it was up to quarterback Ian Book and his receivers to make plays. 

Enter Fort Wayne (Ind.) native Ben Skowronek. 

The 6-foot-3, 224-pounder shined bright at Heinz Field as he caught two passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

"Coach Kelly had a clear message before the game to come out and play loose and make plays," stated Skowronek. "That was our focus as an offense and as a whole team - just make plays and play loose and not worry about the score, but rather winning your individual matchups." 

The 73-yard bomb put the Fighting Irish up 14-3 in the second quarterback, but it also set a tone. 

"It's just a simple go route," explained Skowronek. "I kind of had a good feeling Ian was going to come to me on that play. It really comes down to winning your one-on-one matchup and making the play.

"When you catch the ball and help your quarterback out, you start building some trust with him. Maybe he starts looking for you more often and stuff."

Book took some heat after last week's performance against Louisville and rebounded in a big way throwing for 312 yards and three touchdowns. 

"Ian had a great game," Skowronek stated. "He's a great quarterback and so accurate. He's a winner. Being that reliable target for him is what I want to be and help the team win games." 

Notre Dame got bad news on Thursday as Kevin Austin Jr. went down with another foot injury. 

Skowronek felt terrible for his teammate, but he made sure it didn't impact his performance on Saturday. 

"I'm sick for Kevin," said Skowronek. "He's worked so hard doing all the right things. I just feel terrible for him. When somebody goes down, somebody has to step up. That's just the nature of the game we play. 

"Coach Rees, Coach Kelly and Coach Alexander, they told me I was going to have to make some plays. I'm sick for Kevin, but football injuries happen and the next guy will always have to step up. That's what our whole unit is going to have to do." 

Skowronek took his coaches words to heart and the receiving corps took Rees' pregame talk to heart. 

"Coach Rees before the game said he didn't care who is in and every single one of us had to make plays," Skowronek said. "Having so many guys who can make plays, I think it's very hard for defenses. They can't single out one guy to stop because there are guys all over the field. 

"You look at Kyren (Williams) and he's going crazy as a receiving back. Michael Mayer is really stepping up big - Brock Wright, Tommy Tremble and obviously the rest of the receivers as well." 

The 45-3 win was a statement and while Skowronek had a coming out party, the tone was set by Book. 

"Ian, last Saturday night, we were hanging out after the game and I could just see the frustration on his face," said Skowronek. "On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, he came in locked in every single day. Just doing the extra things and studying extra film. 

"He was so locked in this week and it paid off for him. He had a hell of a game. I'm just happy for him. He was very unhappy last week, but this week the fruits of his labor paid off. 

"I can't wait to play with him moving forward. He's a hell of a football player and he's a winner." 

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