Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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Page 21 of 47

22 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IAN BOOK STEPS INTO THE SPOTLIGHT The hope heading into the Citrus Bowl matchup against LSU was that junior Brandon Wimbush had got‑ ten past his struggles and would get back to being the quarterback that led the Irish to an 8‑1 start and the No. 3 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings in early November. That didn't happen. Wimbush completed a 35‑yard pass to junior wide receiver Equanime‑ ous St. Brown on the first play of the game, but during the rest of the first half he completed just 2 of 7 passes for 17 yards, and the offense sputtered. Backup quarterback Ian Book led the Irish to a field goal on the final drive of the first half, and then the sophomore took charge in the second half to lead the Irish to a come‑from‑ behind victory. Book playing wasn't a surprise. With Wimbush struggling late and missing two practices with migraines, Notre Dame had prepared for Book to play. "We went in with the idea of both of them playing," head coach Brian Kelly said of the quarterback rota‑ tion that ended with Book playing the entire second half. "This wasn't a surprise to Ian; Ian was prepared. "Brandon knew as well that both of them were going to play. That was the game plan going in." Book made the most of his opportu‑ nity, leading the offense 51 yards down the field on 11 plays, ending with a 46‑ yard Justin Yoon field goal to give the Irish a 3‑0 lead heading into the break. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Book really developed a groove, but the Irish staff believed he could get the job done. "We have great confidence in Ian," Kelly said. "He hasn't played a lot of football, but we threw him right into the fire, and he leads a winning drive with the game on the line. "He's got that ability, and it doesn't surprise us that he's able to do that." Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long's confidence in Book might have been rattled in the third quarter when his interception ended a promis‑ ing Notre Dame drive. Instead of let‑ ting it bother him, Book settled down and started playing his best football. Book completed eight of his next 10 passes for 112 yards with two scores, and added important runs of 15 and nine yards. He achieved a level of accuracy Notre Dame has rarely seen from its quarterback position this season — as a group the QBs entered the game completing 50.9 percent of their passes. With Book taking over in the second half, the Irish coaches were able to tailor the offense to his ability. "As a quarterback, he is extremely accurate in throwing the football," Kelly said. "We took advantage of what his strengths are, and we ran a lot of boots. He likes to get on the move, the play action. "We established much more of a running game than we did with Bran‑ don. We really just tried to fit it to the strengths that Ian has right now." WIDE RECEIVERS EMERGE DRAMATICALLY Notre Dame entered the Citrus Bowl without its second, third and fourth leading receivers due to injury and suspensions. When the game was on the line, its leading receiver — junior Equanimeous St. Brown — was on the sidelines with an injury. The Irish offense was in desperate need of unproven players to emerge. Notre Dame received exactly that when freshman Michael Young and junior Miles Boykin made money plays with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. "Next man up. I've been watching those guys, and they've been doing a good job of setting an example of coming prepared each and every day, and how to practice," Young said fol‑ lowing the game. "For me it was just give it my all and show the coaches we might be down a couple guys, but we have a couple of guys that are able to step up." Young scored his first career touchdown in the win, hauling in a six‑yard scoring toss in the fourth quarter to make it a 14‑12 game. The score was especially satisfying for LSU GAME NOTES BY BRYAN DRISKELL After throwing a third-quarter interception in LSU territory, Book completed eight of his next 10 passes for 112 yards with two scores to secure the victory for the Irish. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Notre Dame is now 18-18 all time in bowl games. • Notre Dame improved to 7-5 all time against LSU and 2-2 in bowl games against the Tigers. • Freshman safety Jordan Genmark Heath set a career high with five tackles in the win. • A pair of 31-yard runs from Wimbush and junior running back Dexter Williams gave Notre Dame 28 rushes of at least 30 yards on the season, which tied Arizona for the most in the country. • Junior placekicker Justin Yoon's 49-yard field goal in the third quarter was his longest of the season. • Senior linebacker Nyles Morgan was stripped of his captaincy and starting position prior to the game due to an "internal matter."

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