Notre Dame claws out another close call — this time against Vanderbilt.
David Woods, email@example.com
If Ian Book is replacing Brandon Wimbush as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, coach Brian Kelly is not saying so.
After practice Thursday, Kelly responded to media speculation Book would start Saturday’s game at Wake Forest by saying both quarterbacks would play and both are “prepared to help us.” That is essentially what he has been saying for weeks.
Wimbush has started 15 of the past 16 games for the No. 8 Fighting Irish, missing last year’s game at North Carolina because of injury.
Book replaced him in that one, completing 17-of-31 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in a 33-10 victory. He came off the bench in the Citrus Bowl and led Notre Dame to a 21-17 victory over LSU, completing 14-of-19 for 164 yards and two TDs.
“Again, we think he’s a good quarterback,” Kelly said. “We brought him to Notre Dame to win championships, just as we did with Brandon. That’s why we put him in the game against Vanderbilt – to win.
“If we put him in the game this week, it’s because we think he can help us win.”
Book is a more accurate passer than Wimbush. So if Book starts, it would underscore Wake Forest’s vulnerability there. In a 41-34 loss to No. 25 Boston College, the Demon Deacons gave up 304 passing yards and five touchdown passes.
Book has been in for about 10 plays this season, often coming in when Notre Dame advances inside the 5-yard line. He tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nic Weishar in last week’s 22-17 victory over Vanderbilt.
Wimbush has completed 55 percent over three games but has one TD pass, four interceptions, and is not ranked among the top 100 passers in major college football.
The Irish have totaled five touchdowns over the past five halves. They are 104th in scoring (out of 130 teams), 100th in total offense, 103rd in yards per play and 102nd in passer rating.
Handling of quarterbacks is a sensitive issue at Notre Dame, where Kelly was criticized for the way he used DeShone Kiser and Malik Zaire two years ago in a 4-8 season. Kiser was the QB for the 0-16 Cleveland Browns last year and is now Aaron Rodgers’ backup at Green Bay.
Notre Dame’s quarterback-in-waiting is freshman Phil Jurkovec, the nation’s No. 4-rated dual threat in high school. Kelly said Jurkovec has been running the scout team and has had little chance to be with the No. 1 offense.
“If we got an opportunity, we’d love to get him some playing time sometime,” Kelly said. “We’ve been in some tough, hard-fought games.”
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 317-444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.