Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 19, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 NOV. 19, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I n college football coaching, Crisis Management 101 is a weekly occurrence. It became more conspicuous the week of preparation for the home finale versus Flor‑ ida State when junior starting quarterback Ian Book was side‑ lined with what was identified as a rib injury. Book entered the week leading the nation in pass completion percentage (74.5) and was sixth in passing ef‑ ficiency (169.96 rating). More importantly, he provided an "oomph" to the offense, which averaged 38.8 points in his six starts as opposed to 23.3 in the first three games. Early in the 31‑21 win at Northwestern Nov. 3, Book was kneed in the back and was notice‑ ably in pain for a spell. However, he finished the game with a career‑high 399 yards of total offense (343 pass‑ ing and 56 rushing) while accounting for three touchdowns. Upon further review afterwards, Book's injury was more serious than initially believed. Head coach Brian Kelly was coy with most of the media two days be‑ fore the Florida State game, saying Book was "day to day" and that it was an "upper body" injury. But he revealed more to the Notre Dame student newspaper The Observer. "This is really much more of a rib injury," Kelly told The Observer, al‑ though the kidney also was said to be involved. "When we're talking about a rib injury, there's a grade that can go from broken ribs to bruised ribs to internal injuries, so from this perspective, if he had severe kidney issues, that's four to six weeks. We're not dealing with that. "… We're very confident that, if everything continues to move in the direction it has up to this point, that he'll be able to play against Syracuse [Nov. 17]." The medical staff and Kelly all made erring on the side of caution a priority. "If Ian Book was in a position where we didn't feel like we would heighten his medical risks, he would have played," Kelly told The Observer. What Kelly also emphasized to the rest of the media is this was not nec‑ essarily a crisis situation, either. Se‑ nior quarterback Brandon Wimbush has won 12 of his 15 career starts, four of them versus ranked teams, most significantly the 24‑17 conquest of College Football Playoff contender Michigan in this year 's opener that earned him the game ball. "The quarterback that is taking reps for us is a guy you would say is of championship quality," Kelly said of Wimbush. Meanwhile, freshman Phil Jurk‑ ovec also received a heavy dose of work. While the rookie is going through a steep learning curve, Kelly is confident he could operate different elements of the of‑ fense in a game situation. "We're not going to put a guy out there that's lost," Kelly said. "He's going to be able to run the offense. He can throw the football down the field. He can run some RPOs [run‑pass options]. He can run some screen game, option. There will be plenty for you to defend if Phil's on the football field." With Wimbush, the empha‑ sis the past six weeks has been to continue to refine his me‑ chanics and accuracy. "You watch pitchers lose the strike zone, and they make a couple of tweaks in a bull‑ pen session, and all of a sud‑ den they're throwing strikes again," Kelly said. Because Wimbush has game‑break‑ ing skills as a runner, that area was expected to be emphasized more with him behind the center, but Kelly said there was not going to be a com‑ plete makeover. "You don't change a ton of what we do," he said. "… You maybe add a little bit of that into what you're doing. But I don't think if you watch us play, you'd go, 'Oh, that's a totally different offense.'" Throughout Wimbush's stint as a backup to Book, Kelly said the senior remained engaged in practice and had been a "great teammate" to Book and others. Now it's up to him to seize another opportunity while stay‑ ing in the hunt for the national title. "He's had plenty of time to think about not being the starter and what he needs to do, and he's worked re‑ ally hard on the things that he wants to be better at," Kelly said. "He's an incredible competitor, and if he's given the opportunity, he wants to stay the starter." ✦ UNDER THE DOME QUARTERBACK SCRAMBLE An injury suffered by Ian Book thrust Brandon Wimbush back into the spotlight Head coach Brian Kelly said back in August that both Wimbush (No. 7) and Book (No. 12) would be needed at quarterback all season, and that has proven true. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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