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.