The No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners and No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the field on Oct. 27 to battle in a game with national title implications. Notre Dame came in leading the series between the two teams 8-1 and Oklahoma hadn’t beaten the Irish in over fifty years. The Irish beat the Sooners, 30-13, in a hard fought defensive battle.
The game was advertised as a defensive battle, both teams with top ranked defenses. Notre Dame’s defense only gave up an average of 9.4 points-per-game this season, and the Sooners averaged 44.7 points-per-game. The question was which would prevail.
The answer was the Notre Dame defense, who fought hard and kept OU out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. However, Oklahoma had one trophy to hold up, when Blake Bell scored the only rushing touchdown that the Irish gave up this season. That was an empty victory after the Irish beat the Sooners in Norman, Oklahoma.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff and started out explosive, with four big pass plays, three to Jalen Saunders. The drive ended thanks to a mishap on a snap where the center snapped while Jones was calling an audible, leading to an OU punt in a foreshadowing of things to come.
The Sooners next drive was another great one, almost all through the air again. Landry Jones went 5-for-6 for 72 yards, but his one incompletion was on 3rd-and-3 when a Notre Dame defender reached up and blocked the pass. The drive ended up leading to a 28-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicutt, to put OU up 3-0, the only Oklahoma lead of the game.
Jones finished the game with decent stats, 35/51 for 356 yards, but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and threw one interception. It was a tough night for the OU quarterback, who looked brilliant on occasion and struggled when it mattered most, third downs.
“It was just one of those things where we moved it well. We threw and caught it well, but we get down to that thirty-five yard line, and things kind of splinter down,” Jones said. “But, congrats to Notre Dame.They’re a good defense, and they kind of controlled this game.”
Notre Dame answered quickly, as they did all game, scoring the first touchdown of the game. On the second play of the drive, Cierre Wood ran straight up the middle untouched and scored on a huge 62-yard touchdown run to put Notre Dame up 7-3. It was the Irish’s longest run of the season and the first touchdown scored against the OU starting defense in three games.
Notre Dame kicked a field goal in the second quarter, a 34-yard kick to go up 10-3.
It looked like Notre Dame gave up their first rushing touchdown of the season when Blake Bell came in with the Belldozer formation, but a holding call cancelled the score. OU settled for a Michael Hunnicutt 30-yard field goal to put the score at 10-6.
“We had it in the endzone, and again, it’s a judgement call, they call holding,” Stoops said. “Those are frustrating situations, but that’s the way it is. We didn’t get the calls.”
It was that kind of night for OU, who had two touchdowns reversed by penalties and another by a replay that showed Kenny Stills stepped out of bounds at the one-yard-line.
The Irish opened the fourth quarter with a 44-yard-field goal to put Notre Dame up, 13-6.
The Sooners finally drove down the field, and Blake Bell finally punched the ball into the end zone for his ninth rushing touchdown of the season. It was the first rushing touchdown against Notre Dame this season, and the game was tied, 13-13 . With the score, OU tied the game up 13-13.
Oklahoma finished the game with only 15 rushing yards, proving the dominance of the Notre Dame rushing defense. Damien Williams led the team with 29 yards before leaving with an injury.
“Offensively, we did some good things, moved the ball, but we didn’t convert enough third downs,” Stoops said. “That was an issue. We needed to run the football better than we did. But, again, they’re doing a great job of defending the run and didn’t give us much room to do it.
However, Notre Dame struck back quickly again, with Everett Golson completing an eight-yard pass, followed by a 50-yard strike to Chris Brown. This put the Irish in the red zone, where Golson ran in for a one-yard touchdown run to put the Irish back on top, 20-13.
“They’re a great team. They executed,” linebacker Tom Wort said. “I don’t think they made a single mistake. We made a couple mistakes. When you go against a good team like that you can’t make mistakes. They’re a solid team that didn’t make any mistakes. All the credit in the world to them.
The freshman Golson had the best game of his career, throwing for 177 yards with some big time 3rd down conversions. He also ran for 64 yards and the touchdown.
Landry Jones had one of his biggest opportunities of his career to add his name to the Oklahoma Sooners’ history books, when he took the next drive, looking at moving down to tie the game up again. However, Jones threw his fifth interception of the season, Manti Te’o picking off the pass to give the Irish the ball back with only 4:27 left in the contest.
Notre Dame kicked a 46-yard field goal to put the Irish up 23-13. When Oklahoma got the ball back, another sloppy center snap put OU in the hole and Oklahoma turned the ball over on downs, allowing Theo Riddick to run in for a 15-yard touchdown run on the next drive.
For the ninth time in ten games, Notre Dame beat Oklahoma once again, 30-13.
“We hit a little bump in the road, but it’s going to work out. Maybe the national championship isn’t in the picture anymore, but we still have the Big 12 and a bowl game up in front of us,” Jones said. “We just have to see what kind of character we have and how much we like playing football.”
The game ended with Landry Jones going down with a sack, a sign of how the Sooners’ night went.
“Like Coach Stoops was saying, tonight was a non-conference, and huge game for Oklahoma,” Blake Bell said. “Everyone would have loved to get the victory, but we can’t stop competing or stop giving everything that we have, every day at practice. All we can do is get ready for Iowa State.”
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