NORMAN — The loss to Notre Dame is still shocking Sooner Nation. It means that Oklahoma doesn’t have a shot at the national title and, as Berry Tramel put it, doesn’t have a shot at the Big 12 title unless undefeated Kansas State loses twice.
It’s a lot for the state of Oklahoma to digest – especially if you add in the trade of James Harden – but here are a few surprises and underachievers from the Sooners’ second loss of the season.
Jalen Saunders’ hands. The junior transfer from Fresno State tops the list because he had a stellar first quarter and made solid contributions throughout the rest of the game. Saunders’ eight catches in the first quarter were the most in program history, but he’s also on the list for the huge impact he made in just his third game for Oklahoma. (Remember, he just got cleared by the NCAA to play before the Red River Rivalry game). Saunders finished the game with 15 receptions for 181 yards.
Tress Way’s control. We already know this guy can punt. What was surprising is how well he continually executes. Way has an incredible leg but he also has insane control and he showed that last night in the third quarter when the game was still hanging from a wire. Oklahoma had completed an eight-play drive that drove them just past midfield and out of range for a shot at a field goal. Way came in and punted the ball 33 yards. It was downed at the three. It was a huge play at the point in the game that forced Notre Dame into a 13-play drive that went 70 yards and left the Irish with a field goal attempt instead of seven points, leaving the game with only a touchdown separating the two teams.
Landry Jones’ best throw. It was probably the best throw for a loss the entire press box has ever seen. The ball was snapped poorly and got past Jones. Oklahoma’s quarterback scrambled after it while it bobbled into the end zone. Jones picked it up, saw a defender running at him and released the ball just in time. Here’s the best part: he threw it downfield to an open Brennan Clay. It was a nine-yard pass but it was also a loss of nine because Oklahoma was originally at the 18. Still, it was an incredible throw under pressure.
Brennan Clay. Clay had two dropped passes. He looked like he was trying to make plays before he had the ball and the running back ended up with -12 yards on two receptions.
Offensive line protection. It just wasn’t up to what it has been. Landry Jones got sacked twice for a combined -16 yards. Then there’s the fact that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had 11 tackles and one interception along with the stats of the rest of the front seven. Bottom line: Notre Dame’s defensive line was stronger and more athletic than Oklahoma’s line.
Defensive line hurry. If you gave Everett Golson a hourglass to throw the ball, he would wait for almost every last drop of sand to fall before he would throw the ball. The freshman quarterback loves thinking and waiting and thinking and waiting some more — and that’s pretty much what Oklahoma’s defense gave him. Shoot, they even allowed Notre Dame to break free from their typical screen play and Golson aired it out 50-yards to Chris Brown for Brown’s first reception of his career. By the end of the game, the defense just looked tired. Something they really haven’t looked all season.
Sooners Magic. Or luck or whatever you want to call it, but Oklahoma got pretty banged up against Notre Dame. Demontre Hurst ran into the TV crane on the east sideline. Damien Williams limped off the field and into the locker room in the fourth quarter. On the final play of the game, Lane Johnson crawled across the field. Both apparently have ankle injuries, but the seriousness of the injury were not released.