Notre Dame came into their top 10 match up against Stanford with questions to be answered. Could Ian Book continue playing well? Could they beat a fellow top 10 team?
Since Book introduced himself is last year’s bowl game against LSU, Coach Brian Kelly knew he had a viable option behind Brandon Wimbush. On Saturday night, Book solidified himself as the starter with his performance. The junior was 24-33 for 278 yards and 4 touchdowns. Miles Boykin had 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. Not only is Book an effective in the pocket but he can make an off-script play or two himself. Nothing exemplified this more than the drive before the half. With the game tied at 14, the Cardinal had a chance to pin Notre Dame back at their own one. But their inability to down the ball on the point allowed the Irish to start on the 20. That’s where Book took over. He hit Boykin on the drive four times moving the offense down to Stanford’s 10. With 47 seconds left in the half, Book would get flushed out of the pocket. He made his way left and towards the line of scrimmage, swiveled his hips towards the target and his Chase Claypool perfectly in the back of the end zone. The touchdown gave Notre Dame a seven point lead and they never looked back.
Book’s ability to be a threat in the passing game has opened up lanes for the running backs. The return of Dexter Williams was a welcomed site for the Irish. In his first game of the season, Williams was electrifying. On his first touch, he went 45 yards for a touchdown.
“That’s why they call me the juice,” he (Williams) said. “I have to be able to keep them going, keep them rallied up, keep them on their toes. We can’t ever settle for less. We have to always want more.” (NBC Sports)
With Jafar Alexander out, Williams workload was more than had been planned but he was up to the challenge. He would finish with 161 yards and 21 carries.
As good as the offense was, the defense was even better in the second half. After giving up 14 points in the first half, they only gave up 3 in the second. The Irish was able to get pressure with their front four. Jerry Tillery had four sacks, two quarterback hurries, and six tackles.
“That’s how you beat Stanford,” said senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery while cradling the game ball given to him in recognition of his four sacks, including two on the Cardinal’s final drive and three total in the fourth quarter. “They want to get in to [jumbo] personnel and run it at you. If you can’t stop that, you’re going to have a long night. We were able to stop them right on the ball and that’s how you open it up against Stanford.” (NBC Sports)
The Irish defense held KJ Costello to 174 yards passing and Bryce Love to 73 rushing before leaving the game with an injury. As a team the Cardinal only gained 229 yards, their lowest since November of 2017.