Notre Dame Football: Oklahoma Sooners

Fifth-ranked Notre Dame sent a message to the rest of college football with a 30-13 win over No. 8 Oklahoma at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. Here's a closer look at what happened and what it means for both teams.

How the game was won: In the trenches. Notre Dame shut down OU’s run game while rushing for 215 yards of its own. The Fighting Irish offensive and defensive lines manhandled the Sooners as Notre Dame improved to 8-0.

The game was over when: Irish kicker Kyle Brindza hit a 46-yard field goal to give Notre Dame a 23-13 lead with 3:22 remaining. The Irish tacked on a late touchdown to win by 17 points.

Turning point: After OU tied the game at 13 midway through the fourth quarter, the Irish stormed back on their next possession, sparked by a 50-yard reception from Chris Brown. It was a remarkable response to the Sooners. Everett Golson’s 1-yard touchdown run capped the drive and secured the win.

Stat of the game: 0.6. That’s the yards-per-carry average for Oklahoma. The Irish run defense was highly regarded when they arrived in Norman. And they didn’t disappoint, holding OU to 15 yards on 24 carries.

Player of the game: Manti Te’o. The Notre Dame linebacker was all over the field for the Irish. He sealed the victory with his fourth-quarter interception and finished the game with 11 tackles, one sack and one interception. He played like a Heisman candidate, leaving his mark on the game with his aggression and hustle.

Unsung hero of the game: Golson. The redshirt freshman quarterback showed exceptional maturity and savvy. He made plays when they were there, tossed the ball out of bounds when they weren't. He finished 13-of-25 for 177 yards with zero turnovers and added 11 rushes for 64 yards and one touchdown. He didn't play like a first-year player.

What Notre Dame learned: Brian Kelly’s rebuilding job appears to be nearing completion. Programs are built on wins like this. With a road win against the Sooners, Kelly’s team made its case earn a spot in the BCS title game. And, at the very least, Irish fans must be thrilled with the progress of Kelly’s program during his third season in South Bend.

What Oklahoma learned: Winning home games against top-25 opponents isn’t as easy as it seemed under Bob Stoops. After heading into the season undefeated against top-25 teams at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium under Stoops, the Sooners suffered their second loss to a Top-25 opponent this year. No. 3 Kansas State knocked off the Sooners on Sept. 22.

What it means: The Irish are for real. Notre Dame is making a strong case to rise to No. 2 in the BCS standings. With wins over Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State and OU, the Irish have a solid résumé and can make a case for a spot in the BCS title game.

Reliving the end of the streak

October, 26, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- Clendon Thomas swears he has shaken the hand of every man, woman and child who saw Notre Dame end Oklahoma's record 47-game winning streak.

All 63,170 of them. All wanting to tell Thomas they were there when the music died.

"And I've probably talked to more than were actually there," Thomas said. "Our stadium only held so many."

Over a rich history, the Sooners have played in a number of meaningful games. They'll play one Saturday when Notre Dame visits Norman for the first time in 46 years in a clash of Top 10 powers.

But outside the national titles, it's a pair of iconic losses that have truly stood the test of time among those lived it: The "Game of the Century" loss to Nebraska in 1971; and the day the Fighting Irish snapped the streak.

Click here for the rest of Jake Trotter's story on the historic Notre Dame-Oklahoma game.

Notre Dame weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 22, 2012
One last look back at the weekend that was for Notre Dame.

The good: Notre Dame is 7-0 for the first time since 2002. It rushed for 270 yards against what was the nation's No. 3 rushing defense, as BYU entered allowing just 67.9 rushing yards per game.

The bad: No one would flat out say it was a "trap," but the Irish certainly lacked the punch they had a week earlier against a ranked Stanford team. Look at NBC Sports' Alex Flanagan's description for further evidence. Notre Dame had just enough in the end, feeling more relief than elation after its seventh straight win to start the season.

The ugly: Troy Niklas is lucky he wasn't ejected after a post-whistle blow to the head of Spencer Hadley. Matthias Farley had a late hit that he certainly would like to have back. Kyle Brindza's two missed field goals almost proved costly, too.

Nice to see you again: Andrew Hendrix entered in the second quarter Saturday, rushing for 14 yards on his first play and hitting Niklas for 2 on his next play before leaving for good. The appearance marked the redshirt sophomore's first action since garbage time in the opener against Navy. "If we were throwing the ball around more and spreading it out and now you have a quarterback that could run the football, maybe he would have seen some more time," Brian Kelly said afterward. "But the way the game played just didn't play into him getting any more reps."

Next up: The undefeated Irish travel to No. 8 Oklahoma to take on the one-loss Sooners. "College GameDay" will be on the scene, and the game will kick off at 8 p.m. ET. The setting will prove the ultimate test for a Notre Dame squad with national title aspirations.

4-star LB Jaylon Smith commits to Irish

June, 2, 2012
ANGOLA, Ind. -- Long rumored to be a heavy Notre Dame lean, four-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) ended all speculation with a pledge to the Fighting Irish on Saturday at the inaugural R.A.S Football Camp hosted by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer at Trine University.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Smith is ranked No. 46 in the ESPN 150 and is the top prospect in Indiana. He reported offers from Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC.

"Every (Notre Dame) coach has the same stand character-wise," Smith said. "Other coaches tell you what you want to hear, and I saw that with my brother." Rod Smith, a running back, is entering his sophomore season at Ohio State.

Smith is Notre Dame's top 2013 commit, its third commit in the ESPN 150 and its 13th overall.

Video: Notre Dame games to watch

May, 10, 2012

Matt Fortuna looks at three Irish games to watch in 2012.

How to beat USC, OU

February, 16, 2012
Football Outsiders' Brian Fremeau took a swing at nitpicking the flaws among the five teams ranked atop Mark Schlabach's way-too-early top 25 poll.

Two of those teams, USC and Oklahoma, host Notre Dame this season. Here's some of what the Irish -- or any Trojan or Sooner opponent, for that matter -- should try to do, according to Fremeau:

In L.A.:
Generating consistency and dominance on defense needs to be the point of emphasis this spring. The Trojans forced three-and-outs on only 32 percent of opponent drives last year, the 70th-best rate in the nation. All 10 BCS bowl team defenses last season were better at getting opponent offenses off the field more quickly. (The other four teams in this article were much better at forcing three-and-outs, each ranked in the top 12 in this metric last season). Those extended drives were a major liability in USC's losses to Stanford and Arizona State last year -- the Trojans gave up 92 offensive points on only 26 non-garbage opponent drives.

And in Norman:
The offense was productive last year, but there's still plenty of room to improve in efficiency. The Sooners' 39 points per game ranked 10th nationally, but only 18th in points per drive and 84th on points per explosive drive (possessions that average at least 10 yards per play). Big plays were a problem on defense, as well. Oklahoma's overall defensive efficiency was strong (sixth best at forcing three-and-outs), but the Sooners gave up explosive drives on 13 percent of opponent possessions. The departures of Big 12 playmakers at Oklahoma State and Baylor will be helpful, but Oklahoma will need to limit explosive plays to truly be a contender.

Handicapping Notre Dame's title hopes

February, 15, 2012
Our Will Harris Insider took a look at the odds for next season's BCS title contenders. He divided 17 teams into three categories: favorites, contenders and longshots.

With 20-to-1 odds, Notre Dame falls into the contender category, joining Arkansas, Clemson, Michigan, Texas and Virginia Tech. Among teams from that group, Harris likes the Hokies' chances to emerge from the pack as a darkhorse title contender in 2012:
The Clemson defense that was vaporized by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl is an unlikely candidate for a quick fix, and as mentioned earlier, we want proven coaching for title futures. We're optimistic about Mack Brown's total overhaul at Texas, but Year 2 is too soon and there's still a black hole at quarterback.

At a little better price the Razorbacks would have our attention. Arkansas is a strong program with a top-10 coach. Bobby Petrino's regime will overtake LSU this year, and the man who went 41-9 at Louisville will eventually bring at least one SEC title to Fayetteville. This could certainly be the year, as the schedule is favorable, but a trio of new coordinators and a rebuilt receiving corps are reasons for caution.

Like Arkansas, Michigan and Notre Dame are on the rise behind excellent coaching, but the best of this group for 2012 looks like Virginia Tech. With Bobby Bowden gone, this is Frank Beamer's ACC. A national title is the only hole in Beamer's résumé, and he is setting up for one more run behind quarterback Logan Thomas. This will not be an experienced offense, particularly along the line, but the skill position talent is outstanding and the bulk of the defense returns. Virginia Tech is a physical, disciplined team that knows its identity. This program is a constant threat to post an unbeaten season, and at 25 to 1, the Hokies are the most appealing play on the board.

Irish opponents USC and Oklahoma fall into the favorite category, with odds of 8-to-1 and 12-to-1, respectively.

Surprisingly enough, Michigan has worse odds than Notre Dame, at 25-to-1. The Wolverines have had a higher preseason ranking than the Irish in virtually every way-too-early 2012 poll.

Where ND's opponents rank

February, 7, 2012
On Monday we took another crack at ranking Notre Dame's 2012 opponents. The rest of the bloggers ranked their conference's teams. Here's a look at where the Irish's opponents stacked up against their conference brethren:
  • Purdue: No. 7 Big Ten
  • Michigan State: No. 1 Big Ten
  • Michigan: No. 2 Big Ten
  • Miami: No. 6 ACC
  • Stanford: No. 3 Pac-12
  • Oklahoma: No. 1 Big 12
  • Pitt: No. 6 Big East
  • Boston College: No. 11 ACC
  • Wake Forest: No. 8 ACC
  • USC: No. 1 Pac-12

Navy (Sept. 1, independent) and BYU (Oct. 20, independent) were not ranked since they don't play in a BCS conference.

Early '12 opponent Power Rankings

February, 6, 2012
Our Mark Schlabach took another crack at his way-too early top 25 today. In response, we'll try again to rank Notre Dame's 2012 opponents.

1. USC (Nov. 24, away): Virtually every early outlook has the Trojans slated as the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team, and rightfully so. Matt Barkley enters 2012 as the Heisman front-runner and USC will return to the familiar position of having the target on its back throughout the season.

2. Oklahoma (Oct. 27, away): Considering Notre Dame is the only current official, penned-in game that is absolutely going to happen for the Big 12 favorites next season, I'd imagine the Sooners would get up for that.

3. Michigan State (Sept. 15, away): A growing defense will keep Sparty plowing ahead in Year 6 of the Mark Dantonio era, which may just begin with MSU as the Big Ten favorite.

4. Michigan (Sept. 22, home): A number of early polls suggest Michigan as the leading Big Ten contender, but I think some of its losses on defense will be tough to replace. Nonetheless, any team with Denard Robinson under center has a chance to make big things happen, as Notre Dame fans are all too aware of.

5. Stanford (Oct. 13, home): Who needs Andrew Luck when you have that much time in the pocket? Throw anyone under center behind that offensive line and he'll have all the time he needs to make something happen.

6. Miami (Oct. 6, Chicago): The Hurricanes make the biggest jump from the last time we looked at the Irish's opponents. An experienced defense and a great recruiting year for Al Golden suggest this program is back on the rise, pending NCAA sanctions.

7. BYU (Oct. 20, home): I said it before and I'll say it again: If Riley Nelson has a big year, watch out.

8. Purdue (Sept. 8, home): This contest scares me if I'm an Irish fan. First game back from what is sure to be an exhausting season-opening trip in Dublin, with a hungry in-state rival waiting for them and looking to build on momentum following a strong 2011 finish and weak 2012 opener (Eastern Kentucky).

9. Wake Forest (Nov. 17, home): Jim Grobe teams usually perform better than they should, but the Deacs must recover from a weak finish in 2011.

10. Boston College (Nov. 10, away): No more Luke Kuechly means happier offenses everywhere. The Eagles just hope that means theirs, too, which will be in its first year under coordinator Doug Martin.

11. Navy (Sept. 1, Dublin): The Midshipmen have a brutal start to the 2012 schedule, facing the Irish in Dublin before going to Happy Valley to face Penn State, but things get easier afterward. Can they put the awful luck of 2011 behind them and beat the beatable opponents?

12. Pitt (Nov. 3, home): Paul Chryst seems like the right fit, but asking him to lift the Panthers out of their underachieving ways in Year 1 is a bit much.
Our Mark Schlabach's latest 2012 look has Notre Dame at No. 24, one spot below its previous ranking in his initial 2012 early rankings.
There's no question the Fighting Irish are a better defensive team under coach Brian Kelly, and now he's trying to address his team's lack of overall speed through recruiting. The Irish offense continues to struggle because of turnovers and poor quarterback play. Kelly will again oversee a quarterback battle in the offseason, with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel (who enrolled in January) battling for the starting job. The Irish will be without star receiver Michael Floyd, but tight end Tyler Eifert decided to come back for one more season. ESPNU 150 receiver Justin Ferguson was a major recruiting coup after losing Floyd. The defense should continue to improve, as young linemen such as Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt get stronger. Notre Dame's schedule in 2012 is daunting, with nine games against teams that played in bowl games, including road contests at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.

Irish 2012 opponent USC sits atop the latest rankings, with other future foes Oklahoma and Michigan State coming in at Nos. 4 and 9, respectively.

Stanford is No. 13 and Michigan is No. 14, making it five Notre Dame opponents in the top 14.

Looking at another early poll

January, 30, 2012
College football guru Phil Steele took a crack at predicting next season's preseason top 10 Monday, which, he stresses, is not where he thinks each team belongs, but where he thinks each team will appear.

Steele is pretty good at this stuff, nailing nine of the preseason top 10 teams in each of the past three seasons.

While Notre Dame did not make the top 10 (or 11), three of the Irish's 2012 opponents did.

USC is No. 2, Oklahoma is No. 5 and Michigan is No. 7.

Regarding the Trojans, Steele writes:
Last year while the probation-stricken Trojans were not eligible to play in the Pac-12 title game, I picked them to be the best team in the South and clearly they were just that going 10-2 (7-2) beating their crosstown rival Bruins who were the de facto Pac-12 South Champs 50-0 in the regular season finale! The Trojans locked up their spot here with the surprising return of QB Matt Barkley who is clearly one of the Heisman favorites in 2012. He will have plenty of skill position talent surrounding him with his top 2 WR’s Robert Woods and Marqise Lee back and 1,000 yd rusher Curtis McNeal also returning. A case could be made at the end of last season that no team in the country was hotter than USC winning 7 of their last 8 games with a 3OT loss to Stanford their only blemish. With 15 returning starters, the Trojans clearly will be one of the favorites to take home the crystal ball.

Also worth noting is the Irish's last opponent of the 2011 season, Florida State, which comes in at No. 8.

Michigan State, which has made regular top-10 appearances in early polls, was left out of Steele's top 10.
The Heisman Pundit's early forecast for the 2012 award Tuesday featured a number of Notre Dame opponents. Ours is no different.

Two of the top four Heisman candidates in Ryan McCrystal's prediction formula are scheduled to face the Irish, as are three of the top six.

The frontrunner, of course, is USC quarterback Matt Barkley:
While the results of the last few seasons have bucked this trend, historically, Heisman voters are drawn to players from traditional powers who enter the year as household names. If Barkley, coming off a sixth-place finish in the Heisman voting, simply matches his statistics from 2011 and leads USC to a BCS bowl game, he'll be a serious contender.

Barkley's biggest challenge could be USC's schedule. It's tough to win the award without playing on the national stage, and Barkley may not get many opportunities. The toughest opponent on the Trojans' schedule is Oregon, which, after losing Darron Thomas and LaMichael James to the NFL, may not be able to provide Barkley with the challenge he needs.

Barkley's Heisman scenario: Lead USC to BCS National Championship Game, 40+ TD; 150 Predictor points

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, another Irish opponent, comes in at No. 4. Oklahoma signal caller Landry Jones is No. 6.

Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods receives consideration after failing to crack the 10-man list.

The Heisman Pundit, as you'll recall, had Barkley and Robinson atop its list, with Jones also at No. 6. The site also listed Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Touissant, who was No. 12 on its 15-man list.

SN has highest ND '12 ranking yet

January, 18, 2012
The BCS title game may have put a cap on the 20111 college football season a little more than a week ago, but the early projections for 2012 keep coming.

The latest early top 25 is the Sporting News', and Matt Hayes has Notre Dame ranked the highest so far among all early preseason rankings from national outlets, at No. 20.

Hayes writes:
Why they’re here: Because there’s no possible way Notre Dame could have worse luck with turnovers. Coach Brian Kelly has a significantly upgraded roster on the defensive side of the ball, and star LB Manti Te’o decided to return for his senior season. Elite skill players (TB Cierre Wood, TE Tyler Eifert, WR Theo Riddick) and a solid offensive line should mean solid production.

Why it could change: If QB Tommy Rees can’t protect the ball (interceptions, fumbles), Kelly must move on to someone else (Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson?). It’s stunning the Irish won eight games with quarterback production that looked like this: 21 touchdowns, 17 interceptions. Another problem: road games vs. Oklahoma, USC, Michigan State. Woof.

Hayes also ranks Irish opponents USC (No. 2), Oklahoma (No. 7), Michigan (No. 11), Michigan State (No. 12) and Stanford (No. 16).

For a recap of others' early 2012 top 25, click here.
We don't mean to keep harping on Notre Dame's tough 2012 schedule this offseason (though it did catch a break today), but another list lays out just what the Irish might be up against in the coming season.

The Heisman Pundit breaks down next season's Heisman Trophy race, with the top two front-runners facing the Irish in 2012. Three of the top six on the watch list play against Notre Dame next season. Four players on the 15-man list in total will face the Irish in 2012.

The leader in the clubhouse should come as no surprise: USC quarterback Matt Barkley:
Barkley returns for his senior year as the front runner for the 2012 Heisman. He’s got perhaps the best receiving corps in the history of college football catching his passes, so you know his numbers will be stellar. However, he must beat the expectations game or voters could eventually turn on him like they did Andrew Luck.

Michigan signal caller Denard Robinson is right behind Barkley at No. 2:
Four of the last six Heisman winners have been dual-threat quarterbacks and it is this style that has the most potential to wow the voters. The story with Robinson will be how he turned around a storied program. If the Wolverines challenge for national honors, he’ll be a strong Heisman candidate.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones comes in at No. 6. Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Touissant is No. 12.

Suffice it to say that Notre Dame's defense will have its work cut out for it next season.

McGee: ND early schedule loser

January, 17, 2012
Colleague Ryan McGee takes a look today at the top 10 teams who could be hurt by their early-season schedules in 2012 . Checking in at No. 8 on the list is Notre Dame.

McGee, who says "take your pick" for the Irish's biggest test, writes:
First, calling Dublin, Ireland (vs. Navy) and Solider Field (vs. Miami) "neutral sites" is a stretch. Those are home games. Second, if I keep using you as a tough game over and over on this list, then your schedule is ridiculous.

Of the 25 teams on [Mark] Schlabach's Way Too Early list, the Fighting Irish play five. Nine of their 12 opponents played in bowls to close this season, and the Irish have to travel to East Lansing, Norman and the Coliseum. Good luck with that.

If it's any consolation, five of the other nine teams McGee lists are Notre Dame opponents in 2012: Oklahoma (No. 2), Michigan State (No. 4), Michigan (No. 5), Stanford (No. 7) and Miami (No. 9).


Drive Through: Everett Golson's Return
Brett McMurphy and Chris Low join Cary Chow to discuss the return of Everett Golson and what expectations for him and Notre Dame should be this season.


Friday, 8/29
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