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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame QB Ian Book: 'We believe we can win'

December 29, 2020

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has thrived when the chips are against him. 

The former three-star prospect didn't have the top schools in the country calling him. Notre Dame fans didn't think he was the diamond in the rough when he arrived in June of 2016. And Notre Dame fans have wanted him benched at times over the last two seasons. 

It's only natural the California native sits at the top of the Notre Dame record books as the quarterback with the most wins as the starter and he's guided the Irish back to being a consistent top five program. 

On Friday, Book will get his shot to take down No. 1 (again) as Alabama will be the opponent in the 2021 Rose Bowl. To beat the Crimson Tide, it starts with scoring points and that means the Irish offense will have to be locked in from the start. 

"We've got to focus on the small details," explained Book. "We hurt ourselves in the ACC Championship game by not really focusing on the present and maybe looking in the past at bad plays looking too far in the future what we need to do.

"We have to focus one play at a time, especially on third down and the rest will take care of itself."

Where can Notre Dame hit Nick Saban's defense? Third down. The Crimson Tide have struggled to get off the field and Notre Dame must extend drives to have a shot at the upset.

"Third down is huge," stated Book. "It's about situations. We've been focusing on that these two weeks with our team and with our offense - understanding situational football and how to react and the best plays for that, the best way to execute certain plays.

"So third down is huge. It's how you win games. We want to win that third-down battle and that's what we plan on doing."

Book will also need to push the ball down the field at times, which he's done for most of the year, but got away from in the ACC Championship Game. It wasn't all on Book in the rematch against Clemson, but he'll be the first to admit he needs to trust his receivers a little more on Friday. 

"Their corners do an excellent job of pressing and just doing really good at man coverage," Book said. "It's about timing routes. It's about understanding where our guys should be at the right time and trust.

"It's about chemistry we worked on this whole entire year and now it's time to go display that. I believe in our guys and I respect their guys. I understand what they can do and I've seen it this whole entire year.

"Every team is talented. So you can't get away with much. It's about focusing every single play and the small details will really, really matter. Whoever can focus on those small details the whole entire game, every play will end up winning." 

Notre Dame and Book will rely on Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek and others to make plays on 50-50 balls, which is something Alabama star running back Najee Harris has done for the Irish signal-caller in 7-on-7 as high schoolers. 

"He's just a great kid from day one I met him," Book said of Harris. "He's an awesome guy to play with and I remember going down to LA and having a 7-on-7 tournament. The plan was if we were ever down, you just throw it up and Najee would go catch it. He was playing receiver for us and he did that. That's how we were able to win some games.

"He was by far the best player I've played with at that time. There's no doubt. And he is still one of them for sure. He's an unbelievable player. Really good person. Happy for him. He'll be playing a lot of football in the future as well."

Now, Notre Dame's defense will have its hands full with Harris and the Alabama offense, but don't think the Irish are glad to be in the Rose Bowl. 

Book has only lost four games as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and one of them came in 2018 at AT&T Stadium against Clemson in the College Football Playoff. 

This time, Book believes the Irish can finish the job. 

"Just fortunate to be able to be in the playoffs twice in my career is unbelievable," said Book. "We've just got a good program here at Notre Dame that gets it done and we've got to go finish it, though. We were able to make it there in '18 and get close, but we didn't finish the deal. We get another opportunity now with a lot of guys on the team who played in that game who are now older, more mature, better leaders, better football players and now we get that chance.

"We want to finish it the right way. We had a bad taste in our mouth since that '18 game for a lot of the guys that played in it. To be able to end my college career at the biggest stage. I mean, the Rose Bowl has been a game I've been watching since I was a little kid and just to be in the playoffs - we want to finish it the right way. We truly have an opportunity and it starts with believing. We believe we can win. We believe that we can win a National Championship this year and that's where it matters. That's where it starts and it's just an unbelievable opportunity for this team.

"These guys believe. It's been a couple weeks of preparation. We're just excited to get out to Dallas, go play on the biggest stage. That's why you come to Notre Dame. We're here and we're ready to do it.

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