They were not high school rivals but a rivalry could have happened in college.
Ian Book was initially committed to Washington State to play quarterback on scholarship, but the Oak Ridge product elected for Notre Dame, where the junior suddenly has the Irish – and Touchdown Jesus – beaming at the prospects of a championship season.
Book is at the forefront for the 5-0 Irish, who expect to reach the College Football Playoff because the rest of the regular season schedule does not includes single ranked team.
Meanwhile in Seattle, Jake Browning of Folsom fame continues to dazzle for Washington.
The first four-year starting quarterback in program history, Browning on Saturday set more school records for a program that also expects a College Football Playoff championship run.
And wouldn’t that be a compelling showdown – Book vs. Browning – in what would be a historic meeting for a Sacramento region that continues to ship players to the biggest-name college programs and into the NFL.
Book had some starts last season for Notre Dame but did not win the job in spring drills. He has now won the job after stellar back-to-back outings. In his first start of the season on Sept. 22, Book engineered a 56-27 win at Wake Forest, tossing two touchdown passes and running for three while passing for 325 yards.
On Saturday in South Bend, Book was the difference in a 38-17 triumph over Stanford. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns, earning praise from teammates and coaches.
Book and Browning are clones in their zest to lead their teams, to defer credit to teammates, and in their poise.
“I’m just trying to bring the tempo and personally get those guys to ride behind me,” Book told media after Saturday’s game. “To work faster on offense. To bring some juice and be a leader.”
Said Irish receiver Miles Boykin, “He’s incredibly calm. He’s just extremely poised in the pocket, and he always tries to make the right decision. He usually does.”
So does Browning.
While Book got a social media boost from Irish fans pleading Notre Dame to go with him, Browning faced some Twitter heat, with the suggestion that Washington should find another quarterback.
On social media, everyone is an expert. Washington players and coaches scoffed at any notion that Browning could no longer lead the Huskies.
Browning ignores all of it, but he wouldn’t be human if some of the venom doesn’t sting. He did say before the season, “people get on social media and say they hate you and you’ve never even met them. OK, then.”
Browning was on his game against BYU on Saturday. The senior completed 23 of 25 passes for 277 yards, a school-record for completion percentage and just missing the Pac-12 record. He now has 10,347 career passing yards, the most in program history, and his 100 career touchdown passes make him just the sixth to hit that milestone in Pac-12 history.
That’s a career, and he has a lot of season left. Washington is 4-1.
“It’s cool to be (listed) along with some of those names of guys who have accomplished some pretty cool things here,” Browning told Seattle media of setting records. “But my whole thing with records now going forward is, I hope some other Washington quarterback comes along and breaks those, too.”
Said Washington offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan: “I’m really fired up for (Browning). He’s played a lot of football, handled a lot of criticism. That guy’s battled through more than a lot of people and it just goes to show you how proud we are of him. Lot of respect for that kid, man. He’s been through a lot here. Just be careful what you wish for when he’s not here.”
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