ATHENS — Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book appears to have a “California Cool” mindset going for him this week.
Book represents the bullseye the Georgia defense has targeted in Saturday night’s 8 o’clock game at Sanford Stadium.
But Book, a 6-foot, 212-pound senior from the Sacramento suburb of El Dorado Hills, looked to take it all in stride in an interview taped in South Bend.
“We believe in ourselves, everyone in this building, this one family, we know what we do, and we know our potential,” Book said. “So we’re not worried, we’re just confident.”
Ian Book highlights
The book on book
Book has gotten it done against an SEC opponent before (LSU), in addition to beating a Top 10 Stanford, along a victory over a Top 25 Virginia Tech on the road.
Book came off the bench and rallied Notre Dame to a 21-17 win over the Bayou Bengals in the 2018 Citrus Bowl, completing 4 of 6 passes in the fourth quarter for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Last season, Book humbled then-No. 7-ranked Stanford, throwing for four touchdowns in a 38-17 win. The next week, he led Notre Dame to a 45-23 win over the then-No. 24 Hokies.
No wonder Book doesn’t seem to mind that the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs are a two-touchdown over the No. 7-ranked Irish in the first non-conference battle of Top 10 teams between the hedges since 1966.
Book says all that has done is added a chip on Notre Dame’s shoulder as the program looks to snap a nine-game losing streak against Top 5 opponents that dates back to 2005.
“Honestly, we don’t care care what anyone says, if we’re supposed to lose by double-digits, it’s kind of a chip on our shoulder, we’re going to use that as motivation,” Book said, “and I think it’s great, the pressure’s not on us, we’re going down there to do what we’ve got to do.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart hasn’t stopped talking about Book all week.
“They have multiple formations, they have tempo, they have the ability to do a lot of things, they have a lot of offense,” Smart said.
“Then you throw in the fact they have the quarterback that can make you right every play,” Smart said. “The coach could call a bad call, the kid will bail him out and go scramble for it.”
Book’s ability to scramble and extend plays seems to concern Smart more than any other element of the game.
“It’s nice when you’ve got a guy that can make somebody miss, whether it’s a pressure, whether it’s a three-man rush, whether it’s a four-man rush,” Smart said. “I mean, he can make you right.”
Book recognizes the pressure is on him to perform at his highest level with little margin for error.
“I think they have a great scheme, and they’ve got some athletes, obviously,” Book said, breaking down the Georgia defense.
“They’ve got some guys that can fly around, a lot of speed out in the field, and obviously for a quarterback it makes the windows smaller, challenges myself to give our guys a shot, the windows are going to get small.”
The Georgia Defense
Georgia ranks 17th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, allowing just one TD pass through the first three games.
But Tyson Campbell, one of the Bulldogs’ starting cornerbacks, was limited in Tuesday’s practice after missing Mondays with what UGA reported was a foot injury.
It’s a safe bet Notre Dame has taken note.
Book said he’ll be spending more time in the film room, looking to build on the momentum the Irish generated with their 66-14 win over New Mexico last Saturday.
“I think it was huge, not just for me but for everybody to make those plays,” Book said. “Just to get everyone’s confidence up to show that we can do that for ourselves and start to prove our identity as an offense.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said playing for the Irish is like being on Broadway, in terms of the players relishing the big stage.
“You’ve really got to embrace it and have fun with it, these are the reasons you come to Notre Dame, to play in these games,” Book said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have been there and been to those environments, and now we’ve got to go there and we’ve got to win.”
Notre Dame QB Ian Book
Book: “I remember my first play was a QB draw (for a gain of 2). I can’t forget that. That was my first play of college football ever. I’ll never forget that was against Georgia.” #NotreDame
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) September 19, 2019