Ian Book returned to the starting lineup for No. 3 Notre Dame and threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns as the Fighting Irish routed No. 12 Syracuse 36-3 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday to stay on target for a trip to the College Football Playoff.
The Fighting Irish held out Book from last week’s home game against Florida State with a rib injury, and he wasn’t missed as Notre Dame (11-0, No. 3 CFP) rolled with Brandon Wimbush at quarterback.
Notre Dame clearly wanted to be cautious with Book ahead of its trip to the Bronx to face high-scoring Syracuse (8-3, No. 12 CFP). The junior quarterback, who took over as the starter four games into the season, looked good as new.
The Irish had their running game bottled up much of the day, but their short-to-intermediate passing game more than made up for it. Donned in pinstripe uniforms in a tribute to the usual residents of the ballpark, Notre Dame went up 7-0 on its second possession on a 9-yard pass from Book to Dexter Williams.
The Subway Alumni, along with the bridge and tunnel crowd, packed Yankee Stadium on a 45-degree day in the Bronx. The sellout crowd was announced at 48,104.
That the Fighting Irish were playing such an important game away from South Bend, Indiana, did not sit well with most of their fans. Even coach Brian Kelly said it was not ideal. Part of the Shamrock Series, the off-site “home” games Notre Dame plays almost annually, the Irish’s second trip to the new Yankee Stadium had been in the works for several years.
Adding to the anxiety of playing a high-stakes, late-season game far from home was a Syracuse team having its best season in more than a decade.
Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. The most significant college football game at Yankee Stadium since No. 1 Army and No. 2 Notre Dame played a 0-0 tie in 1946 was no Game of the Century.
Only some wonky red-zone offense by the Irish in the first half kept it remotely close as the Orange played most of the game without starting quarterback Eric Dungey.
Dungey left in the first quarter with what the school said was an upper-body injury. The play before Dungey went out seemed fairly innocent. The quarterback ran into the middle of the Irish defense for 4 yards, got up and was setting up the Orange’s no-hudde offense for the next play when he went to the ground.
The senior reached around to his lower back and stayed down until athletic training staff attended to him. He walked off slowly, and then to the visitor’s dugout that leads to the clubhouses.
Syracuse: DeVito came off the bench earlier this season to relieve Dungey against North Carolina and led the Orange to an overtime victory. The redshirt freshman is the quarterback of the future at Syracuse, but he never looked comfortable against the Irish. He was picked off late on the second quarter by Alohi Gilman, who returned it to the Orange 9. On the next play, Jafar Armstrong bounced around the corner and into the end zone to make it 20-0.
Notre Dame: Only a field goal with 10 seconds left denied the Irish their first shutout since Sept. 6, 2014, when they beat Michigan 31-0 in South Bend.
Notre Dame improved 17-6-3 all-time at Yankee Stadium, including 2-0 at the newest version.
Syracuse: Finishes the regular season at No. 22 Boston College.
Notre Dame: The Irish finish the season on the West Coast against rival Southern California.