Chicago Colleges: Oklahoma Sooners

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
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Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):

Noon

Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

What we learned: Week 5

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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Here is what we take away from Notre Dame's 35-21 loss Saturday to Oklahoma.

1. Expectations should be adjusted. Yes, Notre Dame's schedule is front-loaded. But the team can't play the way it has the last four weeks and expect to win. Teams better than Purdue and Michigan State eventually were going to make them pay again, and Oklahoma did just that Saturday in getting off to a 14-0 start and converting three turnovers into 21 points. Arizona State, USC and Stanford are probably the three biggest games remaining. And while crazier things have happened in college football, Notre Dame has given little indication through August and September that it can win out and become a BCS bowl team.

2. Ground game gains traction. George Atkinson III had a career day, rushing for 148 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. The Irish ran for 220 yards as a team, five more than they did last year during their win in Norman, Okla. Tarean Folston showed some promise on his 36-yard first-quarter burst, as well. If there is a silver lining to take away from this contest for Irish fans, it is certainly that the rushing offense seems finally to have found its footing.

3. Hendrix offers a changeup. Part of that extra running dimension came from inserting Andrew Hendrix into some zone-read plays. Hendrix finished with only 10 yards on five carries and misfired on his only pass attempt. Still, he offers a nice change of pace under center against good defenses, and he adds a little more creativity to an offense that has been stale at times early in the season. It is nice to see his size, speed and strength being put to use in some form or another as a redshirt junior.

Week 5 helmet stickers

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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These three stood out in Notre Dame's 35-21 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday:

George Atkinson III, RB: The junior ran the way everyone had been hoping he would coming into this season. He tallied a career-high 148 yards on 14 carries, and he ran for an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter. No other running back carried the ball more than three times (Cam McDaniel and Amir Carlisle). Atkinson also had one catch that lost 5 yards, but we won't hold that against him.

TJ Jones, WR: The senior captain is arguably Notre Dame's MVP so far. He had four catches for 42 yards. Two of his catches came on third-down plays. Another was a 6-yard touchdown grab.

Bennett Jackson, CB: Another senior captain, Jackson delivered a number of big hits on the day, and he finished with two tackles for loss and seven pass break-ups. He had seven total tackles. A controversial second-quarter pass interference penalty hurt, but Jackson still played solid for the defense.

Another slow start dooms Irish

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After Oklahoma called a timeout with 1:21 to play and the ball at the Notre Dame 17-yard line on Saturday, "Boomer! Sooner!" chants began to rain down from the crimson-clad contingent seated near Notre Dame Stadium's northeast corner, threatening to turn this place into Owen Field North. The Irish's student section responded with furious chants of "Let's Go, Irish!"

Two kneels and one final horn later, everyone was left to figure out where these Irish go from here.

Notre Dame had been flirting with a result like this in its previous three games. And, just like they did against Michigan three weeks ago, the Irish once again ran into a team more than happy to take advantage of another rough opening.

[+] EnlargeDamien Williams
AP Photo/Darron CummingsThe Irish surrendered 212 rushing yards against the Sooners.
Starting painfully slow is just no way to live. And after a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma, Notre Dame's second defeat this month, neither is essentially having to win seven remaining games to return to a BCS bowl for the second year in a row.

"You never expect those things, but they happen," coach Brian Kelly said of the Irish's early mistakes. "That's why we have ulcers in this business."

In front of a green-out crowd against the Sooners, those gaffes were interceptions on back-to-back Tommy Rees throws on the Irish's first two drives, leading to an early 14-0 deficit. Much like Michigan showed in Notre Dame's other loss -- and much like Purdue and Michigan State couldn't, try as they might -- Oklahoma proved once again that shootouts are not conducive to the Irish's style.

Rees threw three picks against the Sooners, which accounted for one more than the two he had thrown in four starts entering the contest. Oklahoma converted those turnovers into 21 points, including a 24-yard Corey Nelson pick-six on the game's first possession.

Andrew Hendrix provided a nice wrinkle in some zone-read packages, and the Irish finally got the ground game going behind George Atkinson III, who tallied a career-best 148 yards.

But after falling behind by two scores, they began just two drives while trailing by just one score -- the second of which ended with Rees getting picked off by Julian Wilson on third-and-10 with the Irish in field goal range. Oklahoma then went 88 yards in 10 plays to take a 21-7 lead 42 seconds before halftime.

"I don't know about a dream-like start," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said, "but a good start."

Stoops went on to say that toughness was not a problem with his Sooners, and that they did not lose to the Irish at home last year because of physical football.

Call it what whatever you want, but it was something that Notre Dame mastered last year, especially in its near-perfect outing in Norman.

Then, the Irish won the turnover battle 1-0. They limited Oklahoma to just 15 rushing yards. They won 30-13.

On Saturday, they lost the turnover battle 3-0. They surrendered 212 rushing yards. And they were down 14-0 less than three minutes into the game.

"I'm not sure, to be honest. I don't know how we fix our slow start," co-captain TJ Jones said. "I think it's just kind of a collective thing to come out with -- I really don't know what it is. Whether it's feeding off the energy and executing plays or not letting the mis-execution of plays slow us down."

Added Kelly: "Look, if I knew what that was, I would not be standing here right now. I'd be doing something else. This is my 23rd year as a head coach. You never expect to not pick up the simplest of stunts and have your quarterback get the ball stripped. You never expect not to run the right route when you're supposed to."

No, Notre Dame does not know how it got here, and it does not exactly know how to leave here, either. The student section booed heavily when the Irish began to head up the tunnel instead of staying for the alma mater. Fifth-year senior Carlo Calabrese urged his teammates to come back out and sing, per postgame ritual. They obliged, though it turns out a new team policy, instituted two years ago, calls for the players to regroup first in the locker room following a loss before reappearing and crooning.

Notre Dame had not lost in the 10 home games since the creation of that policy, a streak that came to an end against the Sooners. The Irish's national title dreams -- the Jan. 6 date at the BCS National Championship that is listed inside the football complex for all to see — are long gone. Their BCS bowl hopes are on life support.

"This season's a new season, we're a different team," co-captain Bennett Jackson said. "We have different characteristics as a team, and we take each game each week. We can't do anything about the past. As a team, we're going to come together and try to win the rest of our games. That's our main objective."

Notre Dame prediction: Week 5 vs. OU

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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I'm 4-for-4. You probably don't want me to go 5-for-5.

When Oklahoma has the ball: Blake Bell is making his first career road start. He has given everyone he has faced trouble with his ability to run the football, but Brian Kelly stressed this week that Bell will beat you with your arm as well. He is 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, and he is coming off a 413-yard, four-touchdown outing two weeks ago in his first career start, albeit against Tulsa. Notre Dame gave up a lot of yardage last year in Norman, Okla., but the Irish were able to keep the ball in front of them, bunkering down when push came to shove in the red zone. They cannot afford to miss tackles the way they have early this season, and they cannot let the Sooners' receivers -- namely, Jalen Saunders, he of 15 catches and 181 yards in last year's meeting -- get behind them.

When Notre Dame has the ball: The Sooners have the nation's No. 5 scoring defense (9 ppg). Of course, they have played just three games against three bad opponents. Notre Dame won last year's game by 17, but it is easy to forget that this was a 13-13 contest with six minutes remaining. The Irish had done a brilliant job of controlling the line of scrimmage before catching the Oklahoma defense off-guard with a big play -- a 50-yard, play-action strike to then-freshman Chris Brown that set up the go-ahead score. That's easier to do with Everett Golson than it is with Tommy Rees. And it's easier to execute when you have a strong running game. Cierre Wood's 62-yard first-quarter touchdown helped open that up for the Irish early. They should continue to try to establish a ground attack early, but they have had lots of trouble getting it going through four games.

Intangible: Everyone was sleeping on the Irish during last year's contest. That is no longer the case. Oklahoma got pushed around in a venue the Sooners don't pushed around much in, and they are coming off a bye entering this contest.

Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Notre Dame 17. These slow starts will eventually catch up to the Irish, and the Sooners are too talented to not make them pay.

Video: Oklahoma at Notre Dame

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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ESPN.com's Brandon Chatmon previews Saturday's Big 12 Game of the Week: Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Up for debate: Oklahoma-Notre Dame

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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On Saturday, Oklahoma will make its first trip to Notre Dame Stadium in 14 years. The Irish won that 1999 contest, 34-30, and have won eight others against the Sooners, as they hold a 9-1 all-time mark in the series. Last season's game turned on several big Notre Dame plays on both sides of the ball, lifting the Irish to a 30-13 road win and an 8-0 record.

What will happen this time around? We turn to Big 12 reporter Brandon Chatmon and Notre Dame reporter Matt Fortuna to preview this weekend's tilt in South Bend, Ind.

Matt: Brandon, Blake Bell earned the noble distinction last year of becoming the first player to rush for a touchdown against Notre Dame. That was eight games into the Irish's season, and this year they have already given up two scores on the ground. Obviously, Bell has a lot more on his plate this time around. And he is making his first career road start, in a stadium where the Irish have won 10 straight games. What can Notre Dame's defense expect to see from Bell on Saturday?

Brandon: The Irish will actually have to account for the possibility they will see No. 10 throw the ball when he's behind center. Notre Dame will have to be prepare for Bell to test its secondary with his arm more than his feet, and he showed he might be a better passer than people think in his first start against Tulsa. Undoubtedly, the windows will shrink against ND but the fact remains that the Irish will have to prepare for Bell, who could test them with his arm and feet, unlike their preparations for Landry Jones, who doesn't put fear into the heart of any defense with his legs. The overriding question in Norman is: how have the Irish changed in the trenches after manhandling OU in Norman last season? Can they do that again?

Matt: The depth of Notre Dame's defensive line took some hits this offseason -- first with the transfer of Eddie Vanderdoes to UCLA, then with the ACL tear suffered by Tony Springmann. Still, the front-line guys remain very dangerous, though the numbers have not exactly depicted that through four games. The Irish's opponents have done a good job of establishing a quick-strike passing game, effectively negating the strengths of the Irish's defensive linemen. A mobile quarterback like Bell will likely present more challenges Saturday, and it us up to the Irish to continue to adjust. The other side is a bit of a mystery as well. Notre Dame has struggled to establish much of a run game so far, but its offensive line has done a tremendous job of keeping Tommy Rees standing up straight through four games, and the offense has again limited the turnovers. Rees and this year's group of running backs just don't pose the kind of threat that Everett Golson and last year's backfield did, so it's hard to imagine the Irish running to set up the deep pass in the same way they were able to last year, when they connected with Chris Brown for a game-changing 50-yard strike in the fourth quarter. They may have more weapons at receiver this year, though. How does Oklahoma's pass coverage match up with TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels and company?

Brandon: Well, Matt, the Sooners' secondary would like to think it's ready for the challenge against Rees and Notre Dame's receivers. All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin won't be a concern, but the rest of the secondary is somewhat untested. Senior Gabe Lynn is starting at safety, a new position, after spending his first three seasons at nickelback and corner, and he has played well. OU's three new starters, nickelback Julian Wilson, cornerback Zack Sanchez and safety Quentin Hayes, have looked good but haven't yet played a quarterback who will capitalize on their mistakes. That said, the OU secondary, without question, is faster and better in coverage than the 2012 version. Whether it will it hold up mentally in a hostile environment is the unanswered question, so I can't wait to see how it all plays out. Anyway, who do you like this weekend?

Matt: Notre Dame's defense played its best game Saturday, responding to Brian Kelly's mid-week challenge. But I'm just not sure it has completely turned the corner yet. I think the Irish are getting Oklahoma at a more opportune time, as Bell is making just his second start and the Sooners have yet to really be tested. But I have not seen enough so far that makes me believe Notre Dame will be able to handle everything Oklahoma will throw at it offensively. Oklahoma has had one more week to prepare, and I sense a bit of wounded pride coming from the Sooners after the Irish out-muscled them late last year and, eventually, ended up ruining the their BCS-bowl hopes. How do you see this one unfolding?

Brandon: I think everything falls on the shoulders of the quarterbacks. Rees is much more experienced than Bell and I have a feeling that's going to show itself on Saturday as the Irish make Bell uncomfortable in the pocket and force a couple of mental mistakes from the junior during his first road start. OU's defense will hold up and play well, giving the Sooners the chance to remain in the game no matter what happens offensively. But turnovers will be the difference and ND will win the turnover battle and win a close, hard-fought game at home.

ND run game still trying to get going

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly might have inadvertently left Greg Bryant out of the running back rotation when he said Sunday that Notre Dame was rotating four men in the backfield. But the Irish coach said Tuesday that the highly-touted freshmen still factors into the running game moving forward.

"We just got to four. I'd like to get to five," Kelly said. "Greg certainly has a skill set that we just haven't gotten into the game yet. But again, we're trying to get him in on special teams. He's on kickoff right now. We're trying to get him involved in some of the other running teams. But we got to four, we're trying to get to five."

Notre Dame's run-game struggles have been no secret this season, as the Irish have not eclipsed the 100-yard mark as a team since the opener against Temple. Bryant received two of his three carries on the season late in that game, tallying 12 yards. He then rushed gronce in the first quarter against Purdue for two yards, and received no carries in the Irish's second and fourth games.

The four-star recruit from Delray Beach, Fla., was ESPN's No. 2 running back prospect last season, and he had initially committed to the school he will face this week, Oklahoma.

"It's about scripting five and trying to get five into the game more than anything else," Kelly said of the 5-foot-10, 204-pound Bryant. "We have him scripted into certain plays, it's just really the flow of the game and the circumstances in trying to get him in."

Fellow Florida freshman back Tarean Folston, ESPN's No. 6 player at the position last season, received three straight carries during one drive Saturday against Michigan State, tallying nine yards. He has nine carries on the season for 26 yards, to go with a nine-yard catch.

All five running backs are listed as co-starters on this week's depth chart. Cam McDaniel's 45 carries for 169 yards both lead the team, with much of his work coming in late-game situations with the Irish trying to run the clock out. McDaniel received Notre Dame's final 12 carries Saturday.

George Atkinson III, the front-runner for the No. 1 spot heading into the season, has 24 carries for 121 yards, trailing Amir Carlisle's 33 carries for 157 yards.

Notre Dame is averaging just 114.3 rushing yards per game, 99th in the nation. Its offensive line, however, has surrendered just three sacks on the season.

"There are so many factors to that," Kelly said of the difference in pass- and run-blocking. "They're blocking the five guys that they're supposed to block pretty good. There are times when obviously we need to be better at it. We have to block seven and eight, and we've got to get better at that. But they're doing a great job in pass protection. We need to do a much better job as a unit, as a whole, and that's not just the offensive line, that's everybody, coaches and tight ends included, in blocking the whole play."

Irish prepare for another mobile QB

September, 24, 2013
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Oklahoma had a 356-yard passer and a 181-yard receiver in last year's game against Notre Dame. The Sooners put the ball in the end zone just once, though, and they lost by 17.

Call it keeping the points down or bending but not breaking. Whatever it is, it has worked well for the Irish in the past, and they are cognizant of that as they ready for a rematch Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

"A lot of it has to do with our ability to not give up big plays — keeping the ball in front of us has been one of our mainstays defensively ," coach Brian Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference, adding: "You've got to be sound and fundamental and contain. You can't give up easy runs. I think that's really what it comes down to. When the quarterback's running the football, you've got to make sure you're minimizing their ability to get big plays."

New Sooners quarterback Blake Bell was used in short-yardage situations last year, as he accounted for the first rushing score against the Irish in 2012.

Will Cronin and Rashad Kinlaw, both of whom stand 5-foot-11, have mimicked the 6-6, 252-pound Bell on the scout team this week.

The challenge is different from facing drop-back passer Landry Jones last season, though the Irish have become familiar with mobile signal-callers in different parts of each of their first four games.

"I think from a chemistry standpoint they put you in a position where you have to cover a lot of different scenarios," Kelly said. "You're put in a very difficult position when you can be running the football and have options to throw as well. That constant bind that the running quarterback gives you is a stress on your defense, and we've had that for the last couple of weeks. Our staff and [defensive coordinator Bob] Diaco have done a great job of formulating a plan, and we're going to have to have another great one this weekend."

Notes: Matthias Farley and Austin Collinsworth were listed as co-starters at one safety spot, with Elijah Shumate holding down the other. The inside linebacker depth chart showed similar structure, with Jarrett Grace and Dan Fox as co-starters at one spot while Carlo Calabrese was the lone starter at the other spot. All five running backs were listed as co-starters. … Notre Dame Stadium is calling for a "green out" but the team will not wear green jerseys. Upward of 40,000 pom-poms will be given out.

Stats to keep an eye on during OU-ND

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Is Oklahoma a BCS title contender? Or a pretender?

Those questions will start to get answered on Saturday when the Sooners visit South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsIf Blake Bell can help the Sooners control tempo and execute in the red zone, OU's chance of winning at Notre Dame increases.
Turnovers, third down efficiency and sacks are obvious statistics that point to the eventual winner. But here are five overlooked stats to keep on eye on if the Sooners hope to knock off the Fighting Irish.

Rush attempts: OU will want to establish the running game and be much more balanced than it was during its 30-13 loss to ND in Norman last season. The Sooners passed the ball 52 times and ran 24 times in that defeat.

Why it matters: If OU’s rushing attempts surpass 35, that likely means the Sooners are having success on the ground, particularly on first down. Four- or five-yard gains on first down will increase the chances of second down rushes. One- or two-yard gains will not. If the Sooners can run the ball, their odds of winning increase significantly.

Tackles for loss: The Sooners need to play the majority of the game on Notre Dame’s side of the line of scrimmage. OU had two tackles for loss against the Fighting Irish in 2012 as Notre Dame was never really taken out of its comfort level despite starting a redshirt freshman quarterback in Everett Golson.

Why it matters: Mike Stoops’ defense has been much more aggressive this season with more blitzing and a one-gap scheme along the defensive line. Those moves were made to get more penetration into opponent’s backfield. If OU has five or more tackles for loss on Saturday, that’s a great sign. If not, its defense could be losing the battle in the trenches.

Tackles recorded by Sooners’ linebackers: OU’s leading tacklers after three games are Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon. Last season, the Sooners’ leading tacklers were safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris. Jefferson and cornerback Aaron Colvin combined for 21 tackles in OU’s loss to ND last year, a sign that the defensive line and linebackers were subpar at best.

Why it matters: Nelson and Shannon have played extremely well, along with pass rush specialist Eric Striker. If Nelson and Shannon are making plays sideline-to-sideline and Striker is getting pressure on ND quarterback Tommy Rees, the Sooners defense will have the chance to dominate the game. If OU safeties Gabe Lynn and Quentin Hayes are making the majority of the tackles, that means Nelson and Shannon aren’t stepping up their game against the run or pass.

Red zone efficiency: People often talk about how the Irish came into OU’s house and dominated the Sooners in their last meeting. OU was 1 of 5 in the red zone in that loss, a negative state in a game that was tied 13-13 with just under 12 minutes left in regulation. Clearly, the Sooners weren’t that far away from leaving Memorial Stadium with a win. Worse yet, they were 1 of 3 in goal-to-go situations that evening.

Why it matters: Scoring points and capitalizing on opportunities decide games, particularly games between two quality opponents. The Sooners can’t expect to win if they make consistent trips into the red zone and don’t come away with points like they did in 2012. Blake Bell scored OU’s lone touchdown last season, so the Sooners should be able to come up with ways to use Bell's skill set to make things harder on ND's defense. OU was 4 of 7 in the red zone and 3 of 4 on goal-to-go situations against Tulsa on Sept. 14 -- Bell’s lone start this season -- but they’ll need to be even more efficient against the Irish.

Time of possession: There are several games where time of possession is irrelevant in this era of college football. This game will not be one of them. ND won the time of possession battle in 2012, as the Irish generally controlled the pace of the game.

Why it matters: If OU can control the ball and maintain possession, it'll help take the crowd out of the game, potentially making things a lot easier in Bell’s first collegiate road start. Obviously, if the Sooners can score five touchdowns on drives of two minutes or less to start the game, they’ll take it. But the much more realistic scenario is to try to control the pace of the game by maintaining possession, much like the Irish did a year ago.

Kelly pleased with complete performance

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
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Brian Kelly saw a different team post-victory Saturday night than the one he did a week earlier.

Such is the difference between a tight home win over BYU and a program-defining road triumph over a top-10 team.

"They were very excited about the win," Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference of a 30-13 win over No. 8 Oklahoma. "They felt really good about how they won the game. It wasn't a giddy group; it was a group that felt like they had earned the win and celebrated accordingly. And we got on the bus and we got on the plane and you could barely hear a pin drop. The guys were out sleeping. You know when you gauge a win how your team reacts, and I thought it was an appropriate reaction after the game."

One that coincided with the best performance of the three-year Kelly era.

"It was in the four areas that we've asked our kids to play this game, it was on point," Kelly said. "We wanted to be smart, disciplined, physically and mentally we wanted to be tougher than our opponent, and we hit all four of those. So as it relates to what the message was and what we wanted to accomplish, it hit all four points for us."

Specificifally, Kelly was pleased to see a number of young players step up in big spots, particularly Chris Brown, whose game-changing 50-yard catch in the fourth quarter set up the go-ahead score.

The reception was the first of Brown's career.

"Three true freshmen making an impact in Chris Brown, Elijah Shumate and KeiVarae Russell — I think the tackling of our secondary against a very skilled group," Kelly said of what stood out the most Saturday. "We were going to give them the ball in space and we were going to have to make tackles, and I was very, very impressed with a guy like KeiVarae Russell, who's a true freshman who moved over there just a couple months ago, the way he tackles in space. And then Elijah Shumate, a guy who again, is just a true freshman playing in a very big environment.

"The way they handled themselves in that kind of environment — I wouldn't say surprised me, but those are the things that we're talking about in terms of guys really impressing us."

Flu-ridden: Six players had a stomach flu during the week, but Gunner Kiel was not one of them. Kelly said he left the freshman quarterback home because the team had several administrators on its plane and had to make some tough travel decisions.

Clean bill of health: Bennett Jackson (shoulder) and Matthias Farley (hand) are both fine, Kelly said.

Maisel: Notre Dame has returned in style

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Notre Dame's style of football is as fashionable as a crew cut, as stylish as an Oldsmobile. And if those references seem out of date, that's because it has been some time since the Fighting Irish have been relevant this late in the college football season. Relevant, as in crystal-football relevant.

That's right, boys and girls: This is what the fuss is all about. All of you who have wondered for the past decade, when Fighting Irish became a synonym for 7-6, why so much attention is paid to the guys with golden helmets, buckle your seat belts.

After the way that No. 5 Notre Dame came into Memorial Stadium and dismantled No. 8 Oklahoma, 30-13, the Fighting Irish are back, and they will bring to the BCS everything that BCS haters love to hate.

When Notre Dame is in the national championship discussion, the college football world spins a little faster. For the next five weeks, the attention that will be directed toward the Irish will be easy to understand -- and hard to digest.

Notre Dame, like the New York Yankees, evokes strong emotions. Unlike the Yankees, however, the Irish are now in a beauty pageant. (And, unlike the Yankees, the Irish can hit. But that's another story.) On its best days, the BCS selects the teams that play for the national championship by the use of -- let's use a 21st-century word -- crowdsourcing.

For Ivan Maisel's full column, click here.

Video: Notre Dame's Kapron Lewis-Moore

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
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Ivan Maisel talks with Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore following the Irish’s win over Oklahoma.

Video: Notre Dame-Oklahoma wrap

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
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Travis Haney wraps up Notre Dame’s win over Oklahoma.

George Atkinson III out vs. Sooners

October, 27, 2012
10/27/12
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Fifth-ranked Notre Dame will go into its biggest game of the season without one of its top playmakers, as George Atkinson III did not make the trip to Norman, Okla., for Saturday night's contest against No. 8 Oklahoma.

Atkinson stayed back at school because of flu-like symptoms, a source told ESPN.com.

To read the full story, click here.

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