Notre Dame Football ’18 Week 4 Stock Report: Irish Offense Soars

Notre Dame TE Alize Mack

You know how when you’re dating someone and despite how cool they are and how much fun you have together, something is missing? It feels weird to break-up because there really isn’t anything wrong, but you know there is a better fit out there for you? And then you meet “the one” and everything that wasn’t there before, is there now, and it all becomes clear.

Well, that was the experience watching Notre Dame play football with Ian Book at quarterback on Saturday. It wasn’t just what was obvious, like the difference in stat line, or the overall efficiency of the offense. It was the check downs to the backs for gains of eight. The wide receiver screen thrown on time and accurately. Or the RPO they could finally run. It was a peak into what the offense could be and what the team could ultimately become.

Four weeks into the football season, the 2018 Notre Dame team found the person who completes them.

Rising

Ian Book

Obviously Book, who completed 74% of his 34 passes for 325 yards, 9.6 yards per attempt and two scores. 1o players caught a pass, with six completions coming to tight end Alize Mack, who enjoyed his most prominent game in a long time (more on him in a second). He also showed his ability to successfully execute the zone read, keeping the ball near the goal line for three scores of his own, and running for 43 yards on 10 attempts. He doesn’t have the explosiveness of Wimbush, but he may be more effective play to play running the ball, because of his superior decision making. Knowing when he can hurt the defense on the ground in some ways makes him more of a threat. Some key games and matchups await for Book, but he effectively ended any sort of discussion of a controversy against Wake. It’s his job.

Alize Mack

Mack has recorded six receptions in two times in his Notre Dame career–last season against North Carolina (Ian Book start), and yesterday against Wake Forest (Ian Book start). It seems those two have got a little thing going, and activating the Notre Dame tight end position, which has been mostly dormant over the last couple of years, would be a huge development for the Irish offense. Particularly impressive was the seam route early against Wake, where Book floated a ball over the linebackers to a streaking Mack, who held onto the pass despite taking a big shot from the safety. Mack has missed on those opportunities in the past, held onto this one. Hopefully this leads to him becoming a big part of the offense against Stanford and through the season.

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Trevor Ruhland And The Offensive Line

The lesser talked about new face on the offense was also very impressive in his starting debut. Ruhland replaced Tommy Kraemer at right guard, who was apparently dealing with an ankle injury, and showed excellent athleticism on pulls and was very effective as a pass blocker. Kraemer has had an up and down start to the season and has had trouble with his movement. Not sure how the coaches are going to play this going forward, but Ruhland made a strong case for a rotation at the position, and with Book being more of a passer, could this be Ruhland’s job going forward?

As for the line itself, they were in crisis two weeks ago with their dumpster fire performance against Ball State. In the last two contests, 486 rushing yards, 5.5 a carry, seven rushing touchdowns, one sack in 62 passing attempts. You may say to yourself, “well yeah against Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.” Both of those defenses are better than Ball State’s. They have made the necessary adjustments.

Brian Kelly and Chip Long

Changing quarterbacks can be hard. Changing quarterbacks while 3-0 and ranked #8 in the nation is even harder. But, they obviously knew what was missing with their offense and felt Ian Book could bring it out. They were right. I don’t like playing the “Brandon Wimbush wouldn’t have made those plays” card, because who knows what he would have done, but it’s hard to see a 566 yard, 7.5 yards a play road performance out of him. There is no evidence to suggest a performance like that was on the way.

These two pushed the right button at the right time, then devised a plan that set their offensive team up to perform well. If Kelly is wrong here, he’s fully in the cross-hairs of all of his detractors, and there are a lot of them. Full credit to him and the staff.

Houston Griffith and Kevin Austin

Two freshmen who saw the field a ton against the Demon Deacans, and that doesn’t figure to change any time soon.

Griffith got his first official start for Notre Dame this week at nickel and continues to show progress, this week against Wake Forest’s stellar receiver Greg Dortsch. He entered the game leading the country in all-purpose yards at 224 a game and Griffith helped limit him to 109. Dortsch finished with six receptions for 56 yards, something the Irish coaches would sign up for every single time. The thing about Griffith that makes him so intriguing in the slot is how aggressive he his. He tackles with a ferociousness that is refreshing. His future is more than bright.

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Austin saw numerous opportunities at receiver today, finishing with 2 catches for 35 yards, a negated nifty sideline catch for about 12 yards on the games first possession, and a drawn pass interference penalty on a deep post in which he had his man beaten. His arrow continues to point up and I’d expect to see him get more and more chances as the season moves into the second half.

Falling

Nope. Don’t feel like nit-picking this week, there will be plenty of that to come later.

Go Irish!!!!!!!!!!!

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13 comments

  1. pete calco 3 months ago

    I see a lot of potential with Book and this offense going forward to score a lot of points.Stanford is a very good team and Notredame needs to play well in all 3 phases for 4 quarters.Also the last 4 years since the playoffs started the teams that made the playoffs all averaged 40 points or more a game.In college football today you sometimes have to win a shootout.

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  2. Brad Sinclair 3 months ago

    Just a quick note on Book the runner. Prevailing wisdom had it that Book couldn’t run. Okay so he is not Brandon Wimbush but he is clearly an athlete so of course he can run. Will he break off 30 yard plays? Probably he won’t. The good news? He doesn’t need to break off long runs. He needs to be mobile enough to keep the defense in check. Tom Brady still does it at 41 years old. Surely Book can do it as well. He can take a bow.

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  3. C-Dog 3 months ago

    Consider what they can do now. If the coaching staff understands what they just unveiled, they have the opportunity to actually adjust during the game. They’ll need to next week. Stanford’s coaching staff constantly adjusts. Just look at the Oregon game.
    Book’s ability to execute a larger playbook should allow in game adjustments. Let’s just hope Kelly isn’t stubborn. And Wimbush could plus a key role too. Williams will hopefully truly be ready to go at speed.

    This upcoming game is going to reveal whether this coaching staff is ready to really competebecause the players are capable.

    We’ll see.

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  4. pete calco 3 months ago

    I’m not too happy with Jack moving the Syracuse game to New York.I was planning going to South bend for that game.I would like to see Notredame have 7 home games and drop these neutral site games
    Also I know Notredame won’t do this but I would like them to play either USC or Stanford the last game every year. Big disadvantage imho always playing the last game of the season in California. Also how about some future home and homes with Oklahoma State west Virginia Kansas State Iowa Kentucky tennessee.

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    1. BC 3 months ago

      I dont mind the neutral site game but it should never be in place of a home game. 7 home games every year.

      4 away games and a neutral site game seems fine with me, but never 6-5-1.

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  5. SteelFanRob 3 months ago

    I guess “Dopey Dave” must be hating life this morning. Not being able to troll on here about how bad ND is and how great Nebraska is.

    But don’t worry friends, “Dopey Dave” will resurface the minute ND struggles so he can gloat about it. What a miserable loser that only gets off on the sorrows of others!

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    1. Greg Kelly 3 months ago

      SFR,
      Good to see you here on post game wrap up. Dopey called on Our Lady of Sorrows and tried conning Her to intercede on behalf of Commodores last week. She is on to Him and His selfish demands weren’t answered. Yesterday was BVM Feast Day and the Irish faithful prayers were answered. Next week it’s the Angels Feast day and the Cardinal will fly by night leaving Notre Dame after their thumping.

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      1. SteelFanRob 3 months ago

        Good one, GK!

        “Dopey Dave” is just a troll loser.

        Or, alternatively, another of this site’s aliases to drum up controversy and some comedy. The latest iteration of “Duranko” is more interesting than some earlier models. So long as this version of “Duranko” doesn’t hack my personal email and send out unsolicited responses to my friends, I’m OK with him.

        I wonder if “Dopey Dave” and “Angry [Anus] Eagle” (remember him?) are one and the same?

        Go Irish!

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  6. Michael the Archangel 3 months ago

    If Chip Long remains the OC, then Book ought to be the QB. It’s obvious Long’s game plan and scheme is better utilized with Book than Wimbush. Expect Stanford and VT to blitz and pressure Book and press the receivers, making Book prove he can throw it thirty yards or so down the field consistently and successfully. Kudos to Ian for stepping up and playing a hell of a game, despite what he encounters the next few weeks. Maybe Wake is just that bad defensively but Book did all and more than what anyone could have asked.

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  7. Bob Rodes 3 months ago

    Kelly says that Wimbush was the guy who gave them the best chance to beat Michigan and I believe him. He says there is a place for WImbush on this team and I believe him. I’m looking forward to finding out more about what that place is.

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    1. Bruce G Curme 3 months ago

      Bob,
      It’s a matter for the “right tool for the right job.” I would bet that BK already has a “job” for Brandon in mind when the right need or opportunity arises. I’m looking forward to that too.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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      1. Fitz 3 months ago

        Agree with the two comments about seeing Brandon when the need arises, and it may not be at qb.

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      2. Greg Kelly 3 months ago

        Little dipsy doodle or great decoy.

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