Analysis: Charting Notre Dame QB Ian Book's improvement against Stanford

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Ian Book’s performance against Wake Forest wasn’t a fluke.

The Notre Dame quarterback proved that Saturday night against Stanford.

In completing 24 of his 33 passes (72.7 percent) for 278 yards and four touchdowns to beat then-No. 7 Stanford 38-17, Book showed he wasn’t simply taking advantage of a poor defense the previous week. Book’s not just a product of offensive coordinator Chip Long’s play calling either — though that has certainly helped.

Book made a number of impressive throws to expose the Cardinal defense. His 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chase Claypool in the second quarter may have been the most impressive.

First, Book had to dodge pressure from Stanford linebacker Joey Alfieri. Then as Book ran forward to possibly scramble for yardage, he found Claypool running open in the end zone. Book, while running to his left, contorted his body to square up and deliver the ball on target.

On multiple occasions, Book threw perfect passes to wide receiver Miles Boykin on the outside in small windows. Numbers can’t necessarily reflect the difficulty of those throws, but Book’s passing chart looks impressive as well.

These are the important numbers from Notre Dame’s passing game against Stanford:

• Book completed passes down the field slightly more on Saturday night than he did the previous week. His 24 completions were caught at a total depth of 155 yards past the line of scrimmage (6.5 yards per catch). Against Wake Forest, Book completed his passes at an average of 5.12 yards down the field.

On his 33 passes, Book attempted throws a total of 258 yards past the line of scrimmage (7.8 yards per throw). His nine incompletions came 103 yards down the field (11.4 per incompletion).

• Book’s production came at the following throwing depths.

Behind or at the line of scrimmage: 7-of-8 for 34 yards and one touchdown with one drop.

1-5 yards: 1-of-3 for 14 yards with one drop.

6-10 yards: 10-of-11 for 94 yards and one touchdown with one bad throw.

11-15 yards: 2-of-4 for 54 yards and one touchdown with one throwaway.

16-20 yards: 4-of-6 for 82 yards and one touchdown with one throwaway.

21-30 yards: None.

31-plus yards: 0-of-1 on a 50-50 throw to Claypool.

• Play fakes resulted in productive passes for Book. On his 15 play fakes, Book finished 10-of-13 passing for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The three incompletions were a result of two drops and one throwaway. Book also rushed twice for a net of zero yards.

• Book didn’t have to rely on yards after the catch for the majority of his production. That’s partially because the screen game didn’t result in any long gains. He only threw for 34 yards and one touchdown on screen passes. Those eight throws were caught for a total of 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage for a net of 59 yards after the catch.

For the entire game, 133 of Book’s 278 passing yards came after the catch. Against Wake Forest, 195 yards of his 325 passing yards came after the catch.

• Notre Dame’s offensive line did a good job of in pass protection for Book most of the night. On his 44 dropbacks, only 13 resulted in pressures on Book. That 29.5 percent pressure rate is the line’s second-best performance of the season behind the 24.4 percent against Wake Forest.

A total of 16 Stanford defenders provided pressure on those 13 dropbacks. Those were the result of matchup losses by right guard Tommy Kraemer (5), left tackle Liam Eichenberg (4), center Sam Mustipher (2), running back Dexter Williams (2) and running back Tony Jones Jr. (1). An unblocked defender provided pressure only once. Book also ran himself into pressure once.

Other than the 10-yard touchdown pass to Claypool mentioned earlier, Book didn’t find much success against Stanford’s pressure. He completed three of his six passes for 21 yards with two throwaways and one bad throw. He rushed seven times for a total of two yards including a loss of 10 yards on two sacks.

• Stanford didn’t shy away from bringing an extra pass rusher against Notre Dame. The Cardinal pass rush included five defenders 18 times — the same number of times Stanford rushed four defenders.

But the Irish were prepared with the proper pass-protection schemes. Stanford never outnumbered Notre Dame in its pass rush, thanks to the help of tight ends and running backs. On only five dropbacks did Stanford rush the same number of defenders as the Irish had pass protectors available. Book finished 3-of-5 passing for 17 yards and two touchdowns in those scenarios.

• Here’s how Book fared against the various pass rush looks from Stanford.

Three-man rush (5 times): 2-of-2 for 24 yards. Book rushed three times for 21 yards. Stanford generated one pressure from a three-man rush.

Four-man rush (18 times): 12-of-15 for 146 yards and one touchdown with one 50-50 throw and one drop. Book rushed three times for 10 yards. Stanford generated four pressures from a four-man rush.

Five-man rush (18 times): 8-of-13 for 94 yards and one touchdown with two throwaways and one drop. Book rushed five times for a net loss of two yards, thanks to two sacks. Stanford generated seven pressures from a five-man rush.

Six-man rush (2 times): 1-of-2 for a 6-yard touchdown with one bad throw. Stanford generated one pressure from a six-man rush.

Seven-man rush (1 time): 1-of-1 for an 8-yard touchdown.

Takeaways

We should have a pretty good idea of what Book can do now. He’s mobile enough to extend plays and talented enough to make throws on the run. Notre Dame’s offensive line has certainly helped him in not allowing much pressure in his first two starts this season, but he’s helped them as well with quick throws.

What may go unnoticed was Book’s improvement against a three-man rush. He completed both of his passes and rushed for 21 yards on three carries. The Irish offense had struggled against a three-man rush in the first four games with both Book and Wimbush at quarterback. That’s a good sign that Book is seeing and reading coverages well.

Book didn’t complete a pass caught more than 20 yards down the field, but he was accurate in the 16-20 yard range. If he can threaten defenses in that area, the Irish won’t be easy to stop. I’d expect Notre Dame to sprinkle a few more long throws into the offense to keep the safeties on their heels.

Quantifying the loss of left guard and captain Alex Bars is tough. I don’t think any of Notre Dame’s offensive linemen had played better than him to start the season. He can be a punishing player, and the Irish trusted him to lead with pull blocks. He was particularly reliable in pass protection too.

I only assigned two pressures as a result of his missed blocks in the first five games. No other lineman who has started more than two games this season has less than Mustipher with five. Kraemer, who only played four games, has allowed 11 pressures at the opposite guard position.

Notre Dame’s Ian Book (12) looks downfield as he runs the ball during the Notre Dame-Stanford NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.