Brian Kelly’s weekly Sunday presser followed yet another 20 point road win for the Irish with Ian Book at the helm instead of Brandon Wimbush. A 33-10 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels is going to carry this Notre Dame Fighting Irish team into a much needed bye week. Without further ado, let’s get right into this.
The Ian Book Experience
Before we get into the press conference and some thoughts on Book’s performance, let’s look at how he did with an objective mindset:
17-31, 54.8 completion percentage 146 passing yards, 45 rushing yards 1 touchdown to 2 interceptions
Those stats, without context, are far from what you want out of your quarterback. These are not the types of numbers that you generally think will yield a 33-10 win over a Power 5 opponent, albeit one that is 1-5 and has suffered a serious plague of injuries. Luckily for the Irish and Irish fans, a great day on the ground and a stout defensive performance can mask yet another poor day through the air.
Now that we’ve got that gross objective look out of the way, let’s look at this more subjectively and add a bit of context to the situation.
This was a first time start for a backup quarterback. On top of that, this is a young man who is only in his second year with the program. He made some mistakes that you would expect from someone as inexperienced as he is. His picks came from poor decisions, and he tried to force the ball into some very small windows all afternoon. Again, that much is to be expected.
However, there was plenty of good from Book on Saturday. He made some very impressive throws and showed he could throw well on the run. He also exhibited a strong confidence that is necessary at the quarterback position. Book has a multitude of qualities that coaches can mold and use to develop him into a solid starting quarterback one day.
He’s just not there yet, and that’s okay.
In his presser, Brian Kelly put to rest any doubts that fans might have had about the quarterback position.
“Brandon is our starter.”
It’s as simple as that.
Kelly made sure to note that Ian Book did a good job filling in, which is true. But I think it was apparent to those who follow this program closely that - for all his shortcomings - this offense runs better with Wimbush at the helm. Notre Dame has two quality quarterbacks capable of taking control of the offense, but Wimbush is the one that Kelly has chosen to lead this team.
So for those still calling to see Book take over, it will happen. The Ian Book experience will come.
Just not yet.
Other Notes from the Presser:
- The Irish’s stated goal with the bye week is to study USC, study Navy, and rest. That last one is vital to this team’s continued success.
- Brian Kelly feels that there are no injuries of concern heading into the bye. Hopefully that translates into the Irish heading into the match-up with USC being fully healthy.
- Brian Kelly is pleased with his team thus far, and with the mindset that they have. However, he feels there is still much to do: “This is not where we want as a destination. I mean, we came into this season wanting to play for a championship and win championships is our mission.”
- Five out of the next six Irish opponents are ranked as of October 8th. Notre Dame has had a nice 5-1 start, but it’s about to get real in the second half of the season.
- Touching on Adams getting national recognition, Kelly pointed to performing against the tougher defenses that the Irish will face from here on out as the key for the star running back. “Consistency of performance in the back half, and I think [Adams will] get all the recognition he deserves.”
- Kelly praised Tyler Newsome’s and Justin Yoon’s performances, “Yeah, [Newsome] was flipping the field for us... He was a big factor, and I think our kickers, you know, were very good. Justin kicking the ball, I think four touchbacks.”
- Kelly said that with what looms ahead, he tries to keep the players grounded and focused on taking it one day at a time.
- When asked about Alizé Mack’s performance thus far, Kelly stated that he has practiced very well to this point, but has still been adjusting to the game and getting comfortable again.
- The coaches want and need to get Equanimeous St. Brown involved more, and Kelly pointed to inconsistency at the quarterback position being a part of that issue. “You know, he's pressing a little bit obviously with the lack of continuity there over the last couple weeks, but you know, he'll keep fighting and we expect big things from him in the second half.”
- The ever-important bye week comes at an opportune time for the Irish. It will act as a buffer for the second half of the schedule according to Kelly, “We've got guys that really need to refocus and reset and get ready for this next six, which are obviously games that we'll have to elevate our performance and our coaching.”