Relevant? I would say that shouldn't be a question any longer this year. Brian Kelly and his squad walked in to Memorial Stadium as a double digit underdog and dismantled No. 8 Oklahoma, 30-13 on their home turf in front of a record crowd of 86,031.
Notre Dame is still undefeated at 8-0 and now ranked in the Associated Press Poll at #4 as Kelly and the boys are squarely in the mix for the BCS Championship after Saturday night. The college football world will have its eyes on the Irish as they look to potentially capture the BCS crystal ball come January.
This game revived what was once a rivalry between two traditional college football powers in the old days and the first contest between the two schools since 1999, Bob Stoops first season at the helm.
Running back Cierre Wood put the Irish on the board as he scampered untouched down the middle of the field for a 62-yard touchdown run moments after the Sooners opened the scoring on a 28-yard field goal.
Irish quarterback Everett Golson returned to the starting lineup after missing the BYU contest for precautionary reasons after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Golson threw for 177 yards and dove in the end-zone for a 1-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"What we'd been hearing was a lot of people didn't think we could win this game. That kind of just added that fuel to my fire that was already burning," said Golson. "We just wanted to come out and show them that we can."
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones threw for 356 and no touchdowns. Wide receiver Jalen Saunders snagged 15 passes for 181.
Irish senior linebacker Manti Te'o helped his Heisman cause by intercepting a pass late in the game to swing momentum. Te'o compiled 11 tackles and added a sack of Jones to end one drive. Te'o stated "We've come a long way, we're going to continue to get better. Thats our main goal right now. Just continue to get better and not be satisfied with being 8-0."
Te'o and the second-ranked Irish defense did give up some yardage in the air but it was the underneath passes that were given up. "That was the way we set up. We were going to give up yards to keep the points down," Kelly said. "We could not let the points get out of reach for us."
The Irish defense prevented the Sooners from hitting the big play and making the Sooners settle for field goals. Backup quarterback Blake Bell did get in the end-zone to tie the game at 13 midway through the 4th quarter. "With this defense, when somebody scores, we get really frustrated," Te'o said. "I think it showed our maturity by how we rallied after that touchdown. We just kept going."
Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick added a late touchdown run as the Fighting Irish tallied 20 fourth-quarter points.
The Sooners couldn't seem to break the Irish defense to produce points. "We moved it well. We threw and caught it well. It seems when we got to the 35, we sputtered down," Jones said, "but give credit to Notre Dame."
There still may be a few doubters out there but they are dwindling with every Irish victory. The Irish are the only team in the country with four wins versus Top 25 teams, including two on the road against top-10 teams.
"We really don't think about that. We really don't care what other people think of us," coach Kelly stated. "(The players) really just care about each other, Notre Dame and winning football games. They'll let everybody else decide who we are."
- Irish defense gave up 379 total yards but only a total of 15 yards rushing.
- Theo Riddick had 19 carries for 74 yards and 1 TD. Cierre Wood also had 74 yards rushing on the day with his 7 carries including the 62 yard TD run. Wood's 62 yard run is the Irish's longest run of the season.
- TJ Jones grabbed 5 balls for 55 yards, Freshman Chris Brown caught his first ball of the year for a big 50 yard gain.
By: Evan J. Thomas- October 25, 2012
So how does the old saying go? "Defense wins championships and offense wins games". Notre Dame's defense has played lights out through the first seven games this season, led by Heisman candidate and senior linebacker Manti Te'o. Its going to take more than just stellar defense to stop the high powered Oklahoma Sooners.
The toughest matchup of the season for the undefeated Irish comes this Saturday night in the hostile grounds of Norman, Oklahoma as the Irish put their 7-0 record up against the one loss Sooners.
The Sooners dynamic offense is led by senior quarterback Landry Jones. Jones offense is currently ranked 17th nationally but has yet to encounter a stifling defense like the Irish. Jones is by far the best passing quarterback the Irish have seen all season. Jones is surrounded by a bevy of offensive talent that will surely look to put pressure on the secondary of Notre Dame.
For the Irish to win they will need to prevent the big plays downfield and will need to force Jones into making mistakes. That is a daunting task for the Irish defense but a task that they have relished in all season.
Irish quarterback Everett Golson has been cleared to play and will start this Saturday night. Golson sat out last week's BYU game due to a concussion suffered in the Stanford game the week before. Golson will need to grow up fast in that intimidating atmosphere and limit his mistakes. The momentum the running game has given the team in past weeks will need to be on display again for the Irish offense to put points on the board. Golson is going to have to beat the Sooners with his arm, as the Sooners are likely to load the box in an attempt to force Golson to throw.
It has been 10 years since Notre Dame was still in the mix for the BCS National Championship hunt this late in the season. Head coach Brian Kelly has his troops looking more and more like the Cinderella story of the year. The pressure this week has been placed squarely on the shoulders of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and his squad to win at home more than it will be for Notre Dame to go 8-0 since the Sooners are an 11 point favorite. No one predicted the Irish to be in this position let alone undefeated with the schedule they have endured this season.
My prediction for this week - Oklahoma 20 - Notre Dame 13