Well, as we suspected most of the week, Notre Dame didn’t send Brandon Wimbush out at QB this week with his foot injury that we somehow didn’t know about until Tuesday. Instead, the Irish convened the (Ian) Book Club. And the results were pretty much in line with what we figured we’d see from the young sophomore, while the Irish cruised to a 33-10 win.
Ian Book still doesn’t have the right jersey, but he played fine
I noticed this the first time Book took the field for ND, against Boston College – he’s wearing a pre-2016 jersey, without the new monogram and the “Leahy” font. The same held true against Michigan State. Interestingly enough, he has the updated uniform at home, but not on the road. I thought he might be fit for the new one given that he was starting the game, but no dice.
Outside of that uni update, Book was more or less fine. He threw too many times early in the game (25 attempts at the half had me wondering if Kelly just has a thing with games in North Carolina in heavy rain) but he only tossed it up six times after the break. He had a horrendous red-zone interception that ruined ND’s 100% red zone efficiency rating, but most of his throws were varying degrees of good. I really like his throwing arm; once he decides the ball is going out, it’s a laser beam. Not always accurate, but delivered with authority. An acceptable debut. Stats: 17/31, 146 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.
The bye is coming at a good time
Between Wimbush’s injury and Josh Adams’ “cranky ankle”, as coach Brian Kelly put it, the bye week has arrived just in time. (Nyles Morgan also scared me with that hand injury late in the game, but he returned later, so I think we’re good there.) As nice as it has been that Adams hasn’t been needed much these last few weeks, I’d like his game-breaking ability back in the lineup. (He still ran for over 100 yards in the first half, thanks to his latest long-distance house call.) And obviously this team needs Wimbush to hit its ceiling.
Man, Notre Dame is fun to watch when they line up and play MANBALL. Deon McIntosh, who had been less than impressive in garbage time, banged out his nicest day of the year today, and C.J. Holmes was impressive in his on-field debut. Love the way that kid runs. Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson were on point in this one, as was the whole offensive line. In addition to their run blocking, they gave Book eternity to throw on most plays. Stats: 6 yards per carry, 341 yards rushing.
Ok, there’s virtually nothing you can take from beating a team like UNC (see below), but I have gotten to the point where I just enjoy watching our defense play. Pressure gets home, guys make tackles, and plays like Drue Tranquill ripping the ball away from a Heel and Julian Okwara tipping an interception to himself are becoming more and more common. I don’t know how Mike Elko got here, but I hope he never leaves. Stats: 70 plays, 265 yards allowed (under 4 per play) and 3 turnovers forced.
UNC, or what’s left of them, is really, really bad
There were several points in this game where a lesser team might have made ND sweat, most notably at the end of the first half and into the second. Instead of running QB sneaks and seeing what he could do in the third quarter, though, coach Larry Fedora went shotgun twice, and it resulted in an ND safety that completely skunked whatever Heels’ momentum had been gained by their TD a few plays before. Even Peak Reckless Brian Kelly might have thought twice before calling those plays.
Then again, there was little Fedora could do. UNC is a MASH unit, and they play like it. They were completely outclassed all day and never had much of a chance. I actually felt bad for them watching several players go down during this game on top of what they were already dealing with. Hope things look up for them later, because this one had to be painful to watch for their fans.
It’s been a pretty successful first half, but I think we all know none of these five wins have been against the kind of teams ND needs to beat. Those games start in two weeks. USC, NC State and Wake at home, then the body-blow trifecta of Miami, Navy and Stanford. ND’s season story will be told in those six games.
(Photo credit: AP)