Anonymity is in the past for Notre Dame QB Ian Book

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Ian Book already has become a little bit of a local celebrity in the Sacramento area.

When he returned home to California during Notre Dame’s bye week, the Irish quarterback attended the Sacramento Kings’ season opener.

In the middle of the first quarter, he was brought onto the court at Golden 1 Center, signed a couple of footballs next to the team’s mascot, Slamson the Lion, and was presented with a purple No. 12 jersey with his last name on it.

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Ian Book honored at the kings

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But when Book was asked Wednesday about his bye week, he didn’t even mention it. Instead he mentioned being able to attend an El Dorado (Calif.) Oak Ridge High School football game.

He eventually acknowledged attending the Kings game when asked specifically about it by a reporter.

“It was cool to be able to go out,” Book said. “I hadn’t been to a Kings game in a while in the new arena. It was fun to go and spend some time with my brother. It was a good time.”

The 6-foot, 203-pound Book can’t go long without being noticed when back in his hometown. He was introduced to the crowd at the Oak Ridge game. He did an interview with a Sacramento TV station. Book said the extra attention was “all fun stuff.”

Yet while all that was happening last week, Book took the chance to look back on a whirlwind five weeks since being named Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.

“There are times when you can sit back and think about how fast this whole season has gone by and what has happened,” Book said. “Those are good moments. You can reflect just a little bit on what you need to get better at and how fortunate you are to be here and be in the position that we are. But we still take it week by week.”

A focus on continuing to move forward has certainly been preached by Notre Dame’s coaching staff. But Book will still be asked about his past. Like why he decided to flip his commitment from Washington State to Notre Dame before his senior season in high school.

Book was asked by one reporter about watching Washington State beat Oregon on Saturday. Book only saw the start, but he knows what that offense can produce.

“That passing attack is what a lot of quarterbacks would like to play in,” Book said.

While Book is leading the country in completion percentage (103-of-137 for 75.2 percent), Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II leads the nation in pass attempts (364) and total completions (254) in only seven games.

But with how things have turned out with No. 3 Notre Dame (7-0), there aren’t many thoughts of “what if” for Book. He has focused his energy on improving.

“I want to work on always being in that film room, really identifying the defense, identifying the coverage and knowing where to go and getting the ball to the playmakers,” Book said.

One of the few nits to pick in Book’s game has been his inconsistency in connecting with longer throws. On throws within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, Book has completed 97 of his 120 passes (80.8 percent) for 940 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. On throws beyond 20 yards, Book has completed 6-of-17 for 211 yards and one touchdown.

The deepest throws have created the biggest struggle. He’s connected on only two passes more than 30 yards downfield with seven overthrows and one jump ball accounting for his eight incompletions at that distance.

Book showed the ability to make a deep throw on the 35-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Miles Boykin that gave Notre Dame the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of the 19-14 victory over PIttsburgh. He hasn’t found the consistency yet, but Book has remained confident.

“I’m working on the chemistry with the guys, knowing where their landmark is, where they want to go and where I need to put the ball,” Book said. “That will come. I’ve been on and off in some games, but I’m not too worried.”

Book may be able to take advantage of Navy’s poor pass defense with some deep throws. Whatever the Irish choose to do, Book knows he can’t waste opportunities against the Midshipmen.

“We know that we have to be efficient. You only get the ball so many times. When you do get the ball, it’s very important that we put points on the board,” Book said.

“It’s not something that should scare anybody, but we have to do what we’ve been trained to do throughout the week. Try not to be a superhero, just play how we’ve been playing and play inside the system and trust the coaching.”

Even coming off a week being treated like a hero at home.

Quarterback Ian Book, center, has had plenty to smile about since taking over as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback five weeks ago. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA