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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Building More Confidence & Momentum at WR Position

October 27, 2020

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book answered his critics on Saturday afternoon as he threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and picked up his 25th win as the starter. 

No, it wasn't perfect, but 45-3 is a reasonably comfortable win in my book and most importantly, it serves as a building block for his receivers. 

Offenses across college football have lacked consistency and much can be attributed to the lack of an offseason, but you won't hear that excuse around The Gug.

"I'm not here to make apologies," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stated. "There are no excuses. You've got to be ready to play with what you have. The fact of the matter is no one really cares, so we weren't going to sit up here and complain about what our situation was. 

"We're going to deal with the situation at hand. A lot of them were because of injuries and not having continuity, but everybody has problems. You deal with it and work through it."

Notre Dame's receiver corps does have an injury excuse as Ben Skowronek, Kevin Austin Jr., Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III have missed multiple games.

Kelly remains positive Saturday was a preview of what's to come if the Irish can maintain health as Keys will return to the lineup this week. 

"We're gaining some continuity and I said it many times, I believe in this group and when we got continuity within the offensive structure, in particular the passing game, it would look better and it would get better and Ian would feel a lot more confident in getting the ball out on time," explained Kelly. 

"Some of that timing element with many people commenting on the ball coming out on time is working with those guys so you can throw it before they get out of their break and do those kinds of things. We're getting there and we're getting better. We have another level we need to get to and we hope to continue to work on that in practice, so when we get to Georgia Tech this weekend, we see another level that we get to."

Skowronek recorded two catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns in his second game back from a hamstring injury. 

The graduate transfer has made the transition to Notre Dame with ease, but Skowronek is also likely still finding his way in the offense as he has 2.5 games under his belt with Book. 

"We felt we were going to get that connection," Kelly said of Book and Skowronek. "We weren't sure if he was going to be at the X position or the W position to start the season because we weren't really clear where we were going to go when we lost Kevin Austin early on. Remember now, we lost Kevin Austin before our first practice. We had Kevin Austin penciled in at one of those positions. We had to shift in midstream - changing just before we got into camp, when we lost Kevin Austin, we then had to move Ben out to the X. We had been really thinking he was going to be the W and Kevin was going to be the X. We had to change that. Then we get halfway through camp and Ben pulls a hamstring and that kind of slowed things down. Then we played two games and had to stop.

"At the end of the day, it's our job to build this continuity through repetition through practice and you can't do it unless those guys are out on the field. They're out on the field. Ben is practicing at full go. We expect and hope that we continue to build that relationship with those two guys."

Skowronek making tough catches in big moments is nothing new. The Fort Wayne (Ind.) native made catches he shouldn't have probably made at Homestead in high school and continued to do so at Northwestern. 

However, it was his experience that sold Notre Dame the most during his recruitment. 

"It was clear that we were looking for a veteran presence," recalled Kelly. "Somebody that had played and competed at a high level. If somebody fit the profile of what we were looking for, we were in the market for that, in a sense. We knew we were losing a lot of catches, losing a lot of guys that had played a lot of football and that we weren't returning a lot of guys.

"Ian needed somebody that had played a lot of football and Ben fit that profile.

"In terms of who he reminds me of, he's got a little bit of (Miles) Boykin in him in the sense that he's rangy and will go up and get the football. And surprisingly has more speed than you think. Because by the time you look, he's past his defender. We missed him on a couple of posts where he's beat the corner, and both those corners are pretty darn good."

Book and Skowronek will now look to build a strong connection this week at Georgia Tech. 

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

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