It was a great day to be a Notre Dame football fan. In convincing fashion, the Irish topped Wake Forest by a final score of 56-27.
Notre Dame football has a long and storied tradition of winning and doing so in dominant fashion. This year, the Irish have accomplished the “winning” part of that equation. The “in dominant fashion” part, however, wasn’t happening, to put it mildly.
That was before Saturday.
After a big victory over Michigan, I proclaimed that this Irish team felt different. It felt as if the vibe surrounding the program was one that meant the Irish would win big games, dominate lesser opponents, and play solid and consistent football.
But those feelings were assuaged following lackluster performances against Ball State and Vanderbilt. The dominance and consistency that I thought Notre Dame would show wasn’t showing. To a certain degree, I was resolved to the feeling that this team was nothing more than “the same old Irish.”
But given what Notre Dame was able to accomplish on Saturday, maybe I was wrong about that, too.
Admittedly, heading in to the Wake Forest game, I was apprehensive. The Wake Forest offense was supposed to challenge Notre Dame’s defense in ways it hadn’t been challenged yet. I expected the defense to show a few cracks and I wondered whether Notre Dame’s struggling offense would be able to keep pace.
When it was confirmed that Ian Book would be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, many of my fears were put on the back burner. I had a good feeling about Book’s abilities within Chip Long’s offense. As it turns out–at least for one week–I was right about that, too.
While I certainly was pulling for Brandon Wimbush to make the necessary improvements to pilot Notre Dame’s offense, I was beginning to wonder whether the ceiling had been reached with Wimbush in the cockpit. While Wimbush has the abilities to perplex a defense with his athleticism, he didn’t have what was necessary to run the offense the way Brian Kelly and Chip Long want it to be run.
The bottom line with Ian Book is that he is willing and able to be a distributor. He makes a read and he has no hesitations about where the ball should go based on that read. And as impressive as he was with his ability to spread the ball to 10 different receivers throughout the game, the most impressive part of his day was arguably the throws he didn’t make.
There was some speculation that an offense with Book at the helm would become pass-happy (and therefore, sloppy). That wasn’t the case Saturday. Simply put, Book made the right throw at the right time and avoided the big mistake (or even the near mistake).
In short, Book read Notre Dame’s offense better and is more willing and able to be the type of distributor the Irish need. With games against Stanford and Virginia Tech on the horizon, now was the time to make the crucial switch.
And finally, while some may criticize Brian Kelly for not starting Book all season, the bottom line is this: Kelly made a switch to a quarterback before his team lost a game because of a stagnant offense. That move took some guts and should should be enough reassurance for Irish fans to feel confident moving forward.