Book, Fighting Irish rout USF, 52-0
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ian Book just needed to stick to the routine against South Florida.
Notre Dame quarterback ran for three first-half touchdowns as the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish rolled to their 20th straight home victory 52-0 over the Bulls on Saturday.
“I don’t need to make any super-hero efforts,” said Book, who moved into third place on the Irish total offense list ahead of offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and behind former QBs Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. “Just get the ball to all our playmakers on the perimeter and let our running backs do what they’ve done the last two weeks. I didn’t need to put any big pressure on myself.”
Fighting Irish (2-0) led 35-0 at halftime and for the second year in a row posted a 52-point shutout for defensive coordinator Clark Lea.
“We talked all week about the standard we had set for our football team, and it’s really just a mindset for our offense,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “It was a point of emphasis and we got off to that fast start and obviously that set the tone for the day.”
Book, who started with three straight completions, capped the opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. He is the first quarterback in Notre Dame’s modern era to run for three touchdowns in one half. He added 143 yards on 12-of-19 passing before exiting with 2:21 left in the third quarter as freshman Drew Pyne took over.
“Ian was better today — he managed the things we wanted him to do,” Kelly said.
Freshman Chris Tyree scored from a yard out about five minutes after Book’s first TD. It never got better for the first-year coach Jeff Scott’s Bulls (1-1), who were a late add to Notre Dame’s schedule after the Irish joined the Atlantic Coast Conference for this off season in a pandemic.
“They’ve got a playoff-caliber team and they really dominated the game from the beginning to the end,” said Scott, a former co-offensive coordinator for Dabo Swinney at Clemson. “I felt like I was playing Clemson there for the majority of the day.”
Reserve C’Bo Flemister ran for a career-best 127 yards for Notre Dame as the Irish spread the touches around between starter Kyren Williams (62 yards on 10 carries) and Tyree (65 on eight).
Meanwhile, the Irish defense limited USF to 65 yards in the first half and 231 total while using three new starters.
A total of nine players missed the game with safety Kyle Hamilton’s ankle injury and wide receiver Ben Skowronek (hamstring) out with injuries. Notre Dame did not disclose the reasons the other seven did not play.
The Irish special teams got into the act in the third quarter with the help of a high snap over the head of USF punter Trent Schneider. When the Australian picked it up 36 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Osita Ekwonu blocked Schneider’s kick and freshman Jordan Botelho recovered the ball as it was going into the end zone for a 45-0 lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
The Irish beat Bowling Green 52-0 last season.
South Florida: The Bulls couldn’t muster anything on offense in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.’s homecoming of sorts. The son of the former Notre Dame coach, who was replaced by Kelly after the 2009 season, used two quarterbacks in the first half. USF started Jordan McCloud and replaced him with Noah Johnson but Weis got little from either.
“From our side, obviously it was a very disappointing from the first drive all the way through the game,” Scott said. “We’re not going to make any excuses.”
Notre Dame: The Irish had touchdowns on five of their six possessions in the first half, while outgaining USF 279-65 in the first half. With Book sitting out the second half and with the other players missing for various reasons, Kelly liked what he saw.
“We live in this world right now and you never are prepared for it but aware of it and know it can happen,” Kelly said. “Our players responded well and so did our coaches.”
AMONG THE MISSING
Cornerback TaRiq Bracy and linebackers Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon, who shared the Buck position, were also out for Notre Dame.
Kiser, a former high school quarterback and linebacker at Pioneer High School in Royal Center, Indiana (72 miles from South Bend), got the start and freshman Clarence Lewis started in Bracy’s place. Kiser had seven solo tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage and had a quarterback hurry and was given the game ball.
“Playing on the scout team, your goal is always to make it up to the next level,” Kiser said. “I imagine Royal Center’s pretty loud right now. Not having a stop light, having a yellow light — people just think that’s crazy.”
Also missing with no explanation were No. 2 quarterback Brendon Clark, wide receiver-punt returner Lawrence Keys III, running back Jahmir Smith and defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo.
The victory by the Irish avenged a 23-20 loss to the Bulls at Notre Dame Stadium to start the 2011 season. It was Kelly’s second season opener and his Irish were ranked No. 16 coming in, but then Bulls coach Skip Holtz, son of former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, engineered the upset.
The Irish, who rose to seventh in last week’s Associated Press Top 25, should be about the same this week.
South Florida visits Florida Atlantic on Saturday to play former coach Willie Taggert (2013-16) and the Owls, who have yet to play a game because of a COVID-19-related postponement.
Notre Dame returns to ACC action Saturday at Wake Forest.
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