OU’s 51-20 victory over Tulsa, in which Blake Bell’s emergence clearly gave the Sooner offense a most positive jolt, gives OU plenty of positive energy going to Notre Dame for their Sept. 28 showdown.
“Obviously gives everybody confidence in the direction we’re going,” Bob Stoops said Monday at his weekly press conference. “Should speak to the players, too, that when we emphasize certain things in practice and they happen on the game field, it encourages them to practice that way. We’ll build on it.”
Of course, Tulsa isn’t Notre Dame (although TU beat the Irish 20-10 in South Bend three years ago).
The Irish popped the Sooners 30-13 last October in Norman, a game that Notre Dame dominated physically.
“We’ll see,” Stoops said with a trace of defiance. “Last year, 13-13 game into the fourth quarter, they got the one long run. But it wasn’t like they ran the football all day going up and down the field. They made some critical plays down the stretch and we didn’t.”
Stoops is right. Notre Dame did make a couple of huge plays that turned the game. But the Irish did dominate physically.
OU running backs gained 44 yards on 16 carries. Bell had six yards on four Belldozer carries. That’s 50 yards on 20 running plays. Ouch.
Notre Dame rushed for 215 yards, and while Cierre Wood’s 62-yard TD run accounted for much of that, the Irish still had 159 yards on their other 36 running plays.
This OU team appears to be more capable of a slugfest.
Either way, Stoops is right. OU-Notre Dame was a 13-13 game in the fourth quarter, and the game really came down to two plays:
* Quarterback Everett Golson teamed with Chris Brown on a 50-yard completion with less than minutes to play, and Golson’s 1-yard run for a TD gave the Irish a 20-13 lead with 5:05 left in the game.
* Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o intercepted a Landry Jones pass with 4:27 to go, setting up the game-sealing field goal.
The Irish scored a garbage touchdown in the final 100 seconds to make it a rout.
The Irish have not played as well through three games as they did in 2012. Notre Dame is 2-1, with a narrow loss at Michigan and a narrow victory at Purdue the last two weeks.
But Stoops bristles at the idea that the trip to South Bend will be easier than forecast.
“How could going to Notre Dame be easy?” Stoops asked. “At the end of the day, that’s ridiculous. They’re an incredibly great, physical football team. Great quarterback play. Tough and good. It’ll be a huge challenge.”