Inserting Ian Book at quarterback last week gave the Notre Dame offense a much-needed boost.
Now the No. 8 Fighting Irish might beef up their rushing attack for Saturday night’s marquee matchup with No. 7 Stanford at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
Senior Dexter Williams will return to the backfield after sitting out the first four games for undisclosed reasons. Williams has averaged 6.5 yards per carry in 29 career games, but has only rushed 99 times for 641 yards.
Coach Brian Kelly is eager to add Williams to a backfield mix that has so far consisted of Tony Jones and Jafar Armstrong. Both have had their moments, but neither possesses Williams’ explosive qualities in the open field.
“Does he have 20 carries in him this week? Probably not,” Kelly said. “But I think he can be integrated within a backfield that is emerging and getting better each and every week.”
The book on Book after one career start?
Try 25 of 34 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns, along with 43 yards and three scores on 10 rushes. An offense that sputtered at times in home wins over Michigan, Ball State and Vanderbilt detonated on Wake Forest in a 56-27 rout.
Book’s encore could be a tougher proposition.
The Cardinal (4-0) have mostly relied on defense to become the Pac-12’s best hope for a national champion this year. They have allowed just 54 points, 31 coming in a wild overtime win last week at Oregon.
Offensively, Stanford has been more of a passing team, with quarterback K.J. Costello taking advantage of opponents’ zeroing in on running back Bryce Love. Costello has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,056 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
He and JJ Arcega-Whiteside have become one of the most feared pass-catch combos in college football. Arcega-Whiteside has 17 catches for 408 yards and seven touchdowns, two coming in last week’s win.
Love, who rushed for 2,118 yards last year and was considered a preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy, has only 254 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. But any carry could be the one that gets him going, and perhaps vaults him back into the Heisman race.
“You never know when those plays are going to happen,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said. “The funny thing with him is you get to the point you know it’s going to happen, so we don’t worry about the 3 and 4-yard gains with him. At some point, he’s going to break one.”
Stanford has won the series’ last three meetings. This will be the first time both teams have played while ranked in the top 10.
–Field Level Media