ATHENS — Notre Dame’s best chance for an upset at Georgia rests on the shoulders — and arms, and more specifically, legs — of senior Ian Book.
Book, a 6-foot, 212-pound dual-threat quarterback, will be the target of the Bulldogs’ sharpened pass rush and containment in Saturday night’s Top 10 showdown between No. 3 Georgia (3-0) and the No. 7-ranked Irish (2-0).
Kirby Smart didn’t come right out and say the Bulldogs are coming after Book, but the Notre Dame quarterback was the only player he identified by name in his 17-minute, 2,326-word press conference on Monday.
Not to mention, such a game plan makes sense after Book accounted for six touchdowns in the Irish’s 66-14 over New Mexico last Saturday.
“As far as Ian Book, he’s very talented,” Smart said. “The guy is fast, explosive. He’s a dual-threat guy that doesn’t have to be a dual-threat guy. He is exactly what is hard to prepare for because when a play breaks down, a lot of times you think as a coach or defensive coach you got it right, you finally got it right, and then all of a sudden he gets a 10-yard gain on a play that you got it right on.”
Senior safety J.R. Reed referred to Notre Dame as another “nameless, faceless opponent,” except where Book was concerned.
The Four Horsemen? Reed couldn’t tell you anything about them, but he has the book on Book.
“Ian Book, he’s a great quarterback, it really shows up on film that he loves extending plays, he can run the ball really well,” Reed said. “He reminds me a lot of Johnny Manziel. We’re going to have to watch out for him to be able to contain him.”
Smart plans to make sure of that, much like his 2017 UGA defense held then-Irish dual-threat QB Brandon Wimbush to 1-yard rushing on 16 attempts and forced three fumbles (recovering two).
Smart has turned the page from 2017, and now Book and the Irish are one of the obstacles in Georgia’s path to a return to the College Football Playoff.
“He has a lot of explosive plays where he scrambles to throw, and scrambles to run; he’s not a guy that just does one, he does both, and it’s frustrating,” Smart said. “You have to be really patient because you want to get him as a rusher, and then when you don’t get him, you get frustrated, and it goes from being a lost yardage play to being second-and-5.
“He’s really talented. Very impressed with him as a kind of commander and also as a scrambler.”
Reed echoed the obvious game plan not to let Book beat the Bulldogs’ defense with his feet.
“We’ve got to be able to contain him, prevent him from extending the plays and making big plays,” Reed said, adding with a chuckle, “Personally, if I was playing Madden, I might spy him.”