SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Early in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma's 2011 game at Florida State, Gabe Ikard's head was ringing.
Up 13-10, the Sooners were punting out of their own end zone.
Ikard could hardly think.
“We're right by their student section and I can hear the sound waves hitting my helmet. I can literally hear it making audible noise in my helmet from the waves,” Ikard said. “It was one of the crazier things that's happened when I've been playing a football game. I was kind of wondering if I was all right for a second.”
Oklahoma has played in plenty of high-stakes games since Ikard arrived on campus, but that win over the No. 5 Seminoles on the road in 2011 particularly stands out.
He's looking forward to a similar feel Saturday afternoon when the Sooners travel to South Bend, Ind., to face Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame Stadium's one of the cathedrals of college football — full of tradition, big games, great players that have played there,” Ikard said. “We're expecting their fans to be very loud, hopefully hospitable, but they've got great fans.'
Saturday's game at Notre Dame is plenty important for the Sooners in terms of their season and hopes that go beyond another Big 12 title.
But games like this also leave a big mark on player's memories — and in recruiting future athletes.
“We tell our kids all the time, ‘You're going to play on GameDay. You're going to play in prime time on Saturday night a lot of times if you're at Oklahoma.' That's big in recruiting,” Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said.
Bronson Irwin remembers the pitch.
“It was in the videos,” Irwin said. “I didn't know exactly what years it would be but it ended up being my junior and senior years.
“This is why you come here. You come here to play in big games. You play Oklahoma State and Texas every year and those are obviously big games. But you throw in a nonconference game like Notre Dame or we played against Florida State twice and it was big. It's very enticing to a young recruit that wants to come in and play against the best.”
Jalen Saunders didn't make his college decisions — first Fresno State and then Oklahoma — based on where they would play in the future, but it didn't hurt.
In 2011, Saunders was on the Fresno State team that traveled to Hawaii in mid-November.
“We got to hang out for a little bit and walk around on the beach,” Saunders said. “That was my first time being in Hawaii so I was real excited.
“We got out there in the morning time so we had a few hours just to walk around.”