Notre Dame has scored at least 31 points in five of quarterback Ian Book’s six starts. Syracuse can put up points too. The Orange are seventh nationally in scoring offense, averaging 44.4 points, and quarterback Eric Dungey has accounted for 26 touchdowns.
Book — who is coming back from a rib injury that sidelined him last week against Florida State — and Dungey will lead high-powered offenses into Saturday’s game between the third-ranked Irish (10-0) and No. 12 Syracuse (8-2).
Chris Simms is quite familiar with the position. The former Texas and NFL quarterback is a studio analyst for NBC and will be on location at Yankee Stadium.
Book impresses Simms even before the redshirt sophomore takes his first snap.
“He’s been the best thrower in pregame warm-ups in every game I’ve been to,” Simms said in a phone interview. “I’ve been around quarterbacks my whole life and I love to watch them warm up. When I tell you there’s one guy you can depend on that was throwing rockets and perfect spirals every throw during warm-ups, (Book) always caught my eye that way.”
It has carried over into games. Book leads the nation with a 74.5 completion percentage and is fourth in passing efficiency with a 170.0 rating. He has thrown for 15 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
“One common thing I always look at with any good offense is having to defend the whole field,” Simms said. “And that’s what Ian Book does for Notre Dame.
“He’s really special as far as movement in the pocket and buying time to make that throw down the field. He has incredible quickness that way and he can get the ball out of his hands in a hurry. There’s a lot to be impressed with what Book’s done to this point.”
The big question this week is how Book will bounce back from the injury.
“I’ve had some bruised ribs myself,” Simms said, “and underneath your armpit, when you’re a thrower, there’s incredible torque on that part of the body. If it’s really tight or doesn’t feel normal, it’s just like anything else: It can make something that you’re very natural and normal at feel not so normal. You’re going: ‘That’s really tight. That really bothers me.’
“Sometimes that can affect your mechanics because you’re trying to find ways to throw the ball without it bothering you.”
Dungey poses a variety of problems for Notre Dame’s defense. The 6-foot-4, 226-pound senior has passed for 2,193 yards and 14 touchdowns and has rushed for 690 yards and 12 scores.
“He’s not the natural thrower that Ian Book is, but he’s a very good thrower,” Simms said. “It’s his physicality that jumps out to me more than anything. His physicality and fearlessness are a big reason why this Syracuse offense goes.”
Dungey holds or shares 16 Syracuse records, including career total offense (10,594 yards). Irish coach Brian Kelly also used “fearless” to describe Dungey.
“It’s third-and-3 or third-and-4 in the zone read, and he keeps it and there’s a guy standing right there,” Kelly said. “You catch and tackle him, and he’s going to fall forward for 4 yards.
“He’s just a tough guy. And that toughness kind of envelops that entire offense. It’s not a finesse spread offense. There is a toughness to it, and I think it comes from him.”