We got a live one, gang!
Notre Dame put an absolute shellacking on a strong Stanford team in South Bend this Saturday -- and the bulk of the credit should go to redshirt sophomore quarterback Ian Book. In only his third start of his career, Book modeled NFL-caliber traits en route to a mistake-free, balanced surgery on the Cardinal defense.
Let's start with this little factoid: In the last five games QB Brandon Wimbush started and finished for the Fighting Irish -- that goes back to last year -- Notre Dame had never broken 30 total points. Book has broken 30 points in all three of his.
Book doesn't offer the same athleticism and running prowess of Wimbush, but that doesn't mean he's a slouch with the football in his hands. Stanford looked to stymie the young passer with eight-man zone coverages, including trap calls such as "Kathy" or "Palms" -- Book was very comfortable taking the underneath areas and picking up yardage with his feet.
When Stanford brought interior pressure -- the correct call given Book's easy climbing of the pocket -- Book was able to leak out the back, extend plays with his legs, and read the field on the fly. I could not have been more impressed with how cool and collected this young man looked on such a big stage. Absolutely delightful.
That's a very nice throw on the move -- kinda in the opposite direction he was rolling, too, which adds some difficulty. What really impresses, however, is the vision to anticipate that throwing window open against the grain of the first-level defenders. That's just natural feel, man -- you don't teach that nonsense.
There's also more than a little arm talent on that throw. I scoured the interwebs for the one pass that really made my eyebrows jump in live viewings of book, and was happy to find it and share it here:
Listen, that's a dime. I mean an absolute dime piece. You can't make that catch any easier for your receiver while still protecting it from the cornerback. Book showed great chemistry with and trust in his WR Myles Boykin, who is enjoying quite the debut season as a weekly starter for the Irish. The redshirt junior wide receiver has some excellent juice and runs silky routes.
Book, with a nice sense of timing and again, that unteachable anticipation, hit Boykin on more than just that one sideline route for the night.
11 of Book's 24 completions and 144 of his 278 passing yards went Boykin's way. One of his four tuddies as well. Can you say "go-to receiver?"
This is a great process for Book here. Rhythm throw with the play-action fake, on time in turning the head and hips toward the target so as to not tip off the safety. Could his hitches be more normalized and his weight transfer a little cleaner? Sure -- but let's not nitpick the new starter. Instead, let's appreciate that release speed -- wheew! That's crisp.
Again, it comes back to Book's ability to extend plays and remain cool under duress. This was a game within striking distance for 3.5 quarters before the wheels fell off for Stanford, but even when it was well put away, Book was out there extending drives and making veteran plays. Lot of savvy to this young man. After his stellar performance, this play just left me chuckling.
Probably ill-advised. Definitely awesome.
Ian Book is officially on my radar as a quarterback prospect. Certainly, it's unlikely that Book would declare as a redshirt sophomore without a full season worth of starts. But he's amassed almost 700 all-purpose yards (600 through the air) and nine touchdowns in two starts. He has not only modeled NFL traits, but seemingly leapfrogged the growing pains that typically accompany young starters.
Book has yet to be tested by a defense that can generate consistent pressure and ring his bell a bit -- that might come next week, against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. If he remains hot through a Bud Foster defense...watch out, folks. Sky is the limit.