Skowronek, Austin return from injuries to get first receptions of season
Mannion McGinley | Monday, October 19, 2020
After the 12-7 Irish win over Louisville, wide receivers junior Kevin Austin and graduate student Ben Skowronek topped the target list Saturday for graduate student quarterback Ian Book. The pair each had two targets, with one and two receptions, respectively. These were their first receptions of the season, as they are both coming off injuries.
Austin had foot surgery just as the Irish returned to campus, but now says he feels stronger and faster and doesn’t feel as though he has missed a step with Book.
“Before my injury, I had to spend a lot of time with Ian working on passing and being on time,” Austin said. “So, when I came back, there wasn’t really a misstep. But while I was injured, I was really focusing on strengthening both my opposite leg and the leg that I injured and trying to stay off the foot and just focus on my strength of my leg.”
Skowronek followed the same mentality, coming off of a season-ending injury last year and a hamstring injury in the Duke game this season that pulled him from the South Florida Game.
“Like Kevin Austin was saying, you know just staying consistent coming every day to work and when our numbers called just being ready to make the plays,” Skowronek said.
He then continued, describing how it feels to return from that.
“Obviously, it was very frustrating. Having a season-ending injury last year, and then the first game this year, pulling my hamstring,” he said. “It was very frustrating. You know, I wasn’t really in a great place mentally, but I had a great support staff and my family, guys like Ian just had my back and [were] always believing in me. And it was kind of like a kid before Christmas last night, I was so excited to play. I’m so excited to get back out there with my brothers. Just going through adversity, it makes everything sweeter. So, being out there today was awesome, and being able to have some catches and product was great as well.”
The excitement towards being back on the field that both Austin and Skowronek expressed transferred into their play. Austin ran his reception for 18 yards and a first down in the first Irish drive, while Skowronek made two catches in key situations, converting twice on third down for 28 yards total. He made his longest catch of the game for 16 yards.
That emotion was palpable from each of them but especially Skowronek for head coach Brian Kelly.
“I mentioned him in postgame — Ben had been certainly somebody that we were counting on,” Kelly said. “He’s been injured really and hasn’t been able to fully engage. It’s nice to see him contribute. I know he’s excited.”
When asked if Skowronek would become a sort of safety-blanket after his third-and-seven, 12-yard catch, Kelly said, “I don’t know that he wants to be called a safety blanket, but he’s certainly a guy that we’re going to count on moving forward. It’s good to see him back out on the field contributing. He’ll be a guy that will continue to improve for us and make plays for us.”
Skowronek attributes Kelly’s trust in him to a few key pieces of his game, outside of his reliability against Louisville on third down.
“It’s experience — I played a lot of football, probably the most [football], on the perimeter, and the offense,” he said. “But, yeah, a lot of people would probably describe me as a possession receiver, but I just want to be a playmaker. Someone who can make a play when my number is called, and just be able to help the team win games.”
Rather than a safety blanket, Skowronek said he’d prefer to be described as a winner.
“That’s what’s most important to me: just going out there every game and getting the win; stats aren’t really that much. They don’t mean that much to me — all I care about is winning.”