No amount of ideas shared or words written can completely describe the magnitude of Notre Dame’s win on Saturday. This was not just a signature win for the Irish, it was the John Hancock of signature wins. Saturday’s performance legitimized the Fighting Irish not only to the country, but maybe more importantly, to Notre Dame fans themselves. They are real contenders for the national title and seemingly will be for the foreseeable future. And what that means to this fanbase who have waited so long for this moment again cannot be properly put into words.
The Irish defense didn’t totally shut down the Oklahoma offense, but their performance was no less impressive. The Sooners came out up-tempo, quick-paced and ready to play. The defense bent, but did not break. For all the success Oklahoma had moving the football, they scored just 13 points. This from a team that averaged nearly 45 points a game coming into the contest. Manti Te’o played outstanding once again and certainly proved he belongs in the discussion for the Heisman. You just cannot ask for a better defense that what the Irish have displayed this season.
Everett Golson saved his best performance for the biggest stage. Anyone wondering if Everett Golson was still the right choice as quarterback have been silenced. Golson threw for 177 yards, ran for 64 more and rushed for a touchdown. His 50-yard completion to Chris Brown changed the game after Oklahoma had tied it up and his efficiency and decision-making did not allow the great Sooner defense to ever get into a rhythm.
This Irish offense may still have a lot of room to grow, but the rushing attack now has fully arrived. 215 yards on the ground against the stiff Sooner D says a lot. Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood each rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown and Golson added his 64 yards and a score to round things out. Wood’s touchdown run maybe changed the game. It proved the Irish weren’t just there hoping to win, but made everyone believe they could. Riddick continued his tough running style and Golson picked up several first downs. This is probably what Brian Kelly had in mind when naming Golson his starter. It’s finally come around and at least gives this team something they can hang their hat on offensively.
Honestly, there really isn’t much to be negative about. Kyle Brindza’s missed field goal was big since it kept the lead at four rather than moving it up to seven, but ultimately it didn’t matter and his late 46-yard field goal basically put the game out of reach and prove his clutch capabilities again. The defense surrendering 364 yards passing wasn’t pretty, but you have to give Oklahoma credit for finding a style that fit. The Irish let the Sooners get some yards, but not too many points so, again, it really didn’t matter. But those are just nitpicking what was the biggest win for Notre Dame in at least 10 years.
This will be one of those game we’ll look back on and cherish for years. While most thought the Irish could be competitive, not too many people, myself included, thought they would win. As I said before, the win not only makes Notre Dame for real to the national pundits and public, but to Irish fans themselves. With three very winnable games in front of them, ND is starting at an 11-0 record heading into the rivalry game at USC to end the season. Even if they can’t sneak into the national title game, this season has already exceeded expectations. Bigger things are ahead for this team and this program, but right now, it can’t get much better.