Notre Dame Runs With It At Quarterback
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Notre Dame Runs With It At Quarterback

While Ian Book will finish his career at Notre Dame behind Brady Quinn (2003-06) in most of the school’s all-time passing statistics, what has been somewhat overshadowed is how productive and effective Book has been as a dual-threat figure.

Last weekend’s 45-3 victory at Pitt was a prime example. Even though Book was named the ACC Quarterback of The Week for his 312 yards passing and three touchdowns, once again somewhat underrated was his mobility and escape ability that allows him to extend plays and buy time.

Ian Book's mobility has helped make him Notre Dame's  second-leading all-time rusher at quarterback.
Ian Book's mobility has helped make him Notre Dame's second-leading all-time rusher at quarterback. (ACC/Notre Dame Athletics)

Versus a fierce Pitt pass rush that ranked second in the country with five sacks per games, Book on numerous occasions kept the Panthers at bay with his improvisation.

On the game's opening series and first touchdown drive, he scrambled three times for 19 yards, most notably picking up six yards on third-and-6 from his 29-yard line.

On the next Irish score — where he calmly stayed in the pocket and absorbed a hit while throwing deep to Ben Skowronek on a 73-yard touchdown — how easily it is overlooked that the initial play on the drive was an 18-yard run by Book when Pitt had the Irish bottled up in the shadows of the goal line.

Without a "spy" on him, Book’s maneuverability frustrated Pitt’s rush and, on occasion, provided time to find an open man as well. He quietly finished with 40 yards rushing (second on the team to C’Bo Flemister’s 48) and his play enabled Notre Dame to dominate time of possession (40:59-19:01), mainly while converting nine of 13 third-down opportunities in his three quarters of action.

Entering this weekend’s game at Georgia Tech, Book is No. 2 on the all-time quarterback rushing chart at Notre Dame and is one of five signal-callers in Fighting Irish annals who eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground (see list below).

“Ian’s got great escape ability, and he’s very difficult to handle [for a defense],” said head coach Brian Kelly of his third-year starter’s mobility.

Yet while he was recruited, the El Dorado Hills, Calif., native Book was listed exclusively as a “pro-style” quarterback by every recruiting service. At Oak Ridge High he passed for 7,632 yards and 78 touchdowns, and he originally committed to Mike Leach’s pass-happy attack at Washington State.

Overlooked was his maneuverability and running skills.

“It’s really important to me, it’s just the player I am,” said Book, who claimed all along that he classified himself more as a dual-threat than pro-style. “That’s how I play the quarterback position. Just my escape ability and being able to create plays is something I have a lot of pride in.

“I wasn’t mad that they had me in pro style, but I just wanted to show everyone that I can use my legs when I need to to extend the play and keep the drive alive … If something’s not there, it’s not looking right or collapsing, I want to be able to get out of my own way, go get the first down and keep the drive alive.”

There might be some contention that Book’s willingness or eagerness to run can be to his detriment at times while leaving the pocket too soon. Against Pitt, though, it was an asset, as it has most of his career, starting with his relief effort in the 2018 Citrus Bowl when he threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the 21-17 win over LSU, but also ran for 36 yards against a fierce rush.

Here are the top 5 career rushing numbers by a Notre Dame quarterback, with bowl games also included for all of them.

Tony Rice (1987-89) — 412 carries, 2,049 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 23 touchdowns.

Ian Book (2017-) — 287 carries, 1,198 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns

Brandon Wimbush (2015-18) — 215 carries, 1,156 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns

Tom Clements (1972-74) — 302 carries, 1,148 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns.

Joe Theismann (1968-70) — 328 yards, 1,091 yards, 3.3 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns.

A third Kelly quarterback barely missed the milestone. DeShone Kizer (2015-16) finished with 997 yards rushing, 3.8 yards per carry and 18 scores before turning pro after his junior season.

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