Obviously, there is no player on the Notre Dame football team under more scrutiny than quarterback Ian Book. This is no surprise, nor is it unfair. It just comes with the position. For better or worse, with the way Notre Dame’s team is built and the way they run their offense, he is most responsible for the success and failures of the offense over the long haul. If they lose, it’s generally going to fall on what Book didn’t do throughout the game.
I have been critical of how Book has played over the last couple of seasons when it is warranted; I’m not going to call something well done if it is not well done. He’s made poor decisions, he’s made poor throws, he hasn’t gotten it done in some of Notre Dame’s biggest games the last couple of seasons.
I think in pointing out Book’s flaws though, we’ve omitted and overlooked his best quality, that has nothing to do with his physical ability (which is better than most people think), and should be appreciated far more than it is, especially as more than a footnote: the man is a fighter.
(I cannot emphasize enough this piece isn’t meant to defend his performances, whatever you or I think of them. I want to point out we should think of him a lot more fondly than we do, because we he is someone we should appreciate and root FOR more so than someone whose play we should pick apart.)
Ian Book Stuck It Out
Ian Book went into the 2018 Outback Bowl as the backup to starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush. He’d played some during the 2017 season, including a start at North Carolina where he engineered a double digit Notre Dame victory. Wimbush had been struggling to end the season and it seemed his confidence was wavering. Sure enough, Wimbush could not find it against the LSU Tigers, and the Irish found themselves down 14-6 in the fourth quarter. From there Ian Book was inserted into the lineup, threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes–including the infamous game winner to Miles Boykin–to lead Notre Dame to a 21-17 victory.
Following that performance, naturally there was talk Book should be the starter going into the 2018 season. Despite reports Book had outplayed Wimbush in fall camp, Book was again sent to the bench and Wimbush was given the keys to the offense. Putting yourself in Ian Book’s shoes, it’d be very easy to see him becoming disgruntled, and even transfer. He’d just won a bowl game. He outplayed the starter. Yet, he had to ride the bench.
Whatever he may have considered, he hung in there with Notre Dame, and when Wimbush struggled in games 2 and 3 in 2018, Book was given his chance and the rest is history.
Ian Book Is Tough As Nails
People forget this, but Ian Book finished the 2018 season with a bruised kidney he sustained in the opening series against Northwestern. It actually caused him to miss a game, and reportedly he was peeing blood. Not what you want! These were reports of course, not confirmed by Book, but when you look at the way he played down the stretch, especially against USC, you begin to understand this is a tough kid.
It was his two third down runs–the first when he ran over a corner to make the first down at the sticks, the second where he leaped over a tackle–that led to Notre Dame’s first and last touchdowns of the game. Those touchdowns propelled Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season and a playoff berth. In the context of what Book was dealing with physically, it’s clear that Book is not a skittish fellow when dealing with pain.
Ian Book Doesn’t Go In The Tank
We’ve all seen Notre Dame quarterbacks go in the tank. We’ve seen it on their faces. When the wheels come off, they really come off, and they aren’t the same. Ian Book, for all the things that he isn’t, will keep coming and keep playing without fear of failure, and it is this trait that has helped him last at Notre Dame as long as he has. We saw it just last weekend. Ian Book stunk it up against Louisville, and everyone knew it. The next week they had their first road game against one of the best defensive lines in the nation. To win, they’d have to be able to throw the ball. The result was over 300 yards passing, three touchdowns, and around 50 rushing yards for good measure.
Last season he was awful against Michigan, as everyone knows. Then odd circumstances made Virginia Tech a nail biter the next week and Book hung in there and managed a game winning drive which he capped off with a third down touchdown run.
I feel most fans understand football enough to pick apart the quarterback, and Ian Book has been picked apart more than any player on the team over the last three seasons, by far. We can reasonably disagree on Book’s level of play over that time span, but I don’t think there can be disagreement about his competitiveness, his will to succeed, and his toughness. We are coming up on the make or break stretch of the season, and it’s either going to go the way we want or it won’t. But, I don’t think we’ve given Book enough credit for sticking it out when he could have left, playing with vigor when he was physically compromised, and hanging in there to win games when a lot of people wanted him gone. Through all of it, he’s 24-3, not a number anyone should have to apologize for.