NORMAN — A costly fumble, a Belldozer blunder and an eerily similar halftime score.
A mobile opposing quarterback, a strong overall defensive performance and a fourth-quarter collapse.
No. 5 Notre Dame used a suffocating defense and a couple big offensive plays to stun No. 8 Oklahoma 30-13 Saturday on Owen Field, handing coach Bob Stoops a second home loss for the first time in his 13-year Oklahoma tenure.
Notre Dame (8-0) had its own twists, but managed to beat the Sooners — and stay alive in the national championship race — following a path to victory employed by Kansas State a little over a month ago, when the Wildcats beat OU 24-19 on Sept. 22.
That night, Landry Jones fumbled into his own end zone, giving Kansas State its first touchdown.
On the same field Saturday, Jones stepped away from his spot behind center Gabe Ikard to call an audible, but Ikard snapped the ball anyway, sending it for a 19-yard loss to kill OU's early momentum.
“We changed the play and there was miscommunication between myself and Landry,” Ikard said. “I snapped it when I normally snap it, and nothing good came from that.
“That was a huge drive kill for our team.”
Against Kansas State, Blake Bell fumbled away a sure first-half touchdown in the Belldozer package near Kansas State's goal line.
On the same field Saturday, Bell's 4-yard score in the second quarter was negated when guard Bronson Irwin was called for a holding penalty.
“I don't see it that way,” said Sooners coach Bob Stoops, when asked if he saw similarities between the two losses.
“We were in some competitive situations and they picked them up.”
But the similarities don't stop there; Notre Dame led at halftime by the exact same score — 10-6 — that Kansas State did a little over a month ago.
The Irish's mobile quarterback, Everett Golson, completed just 13 passes Saturday. Kansas State's Collin Klein had the exact same number of completions against Oklahoma.
“I thought Everett Golson led our team,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “He had obviously been challenged to continue to grow, and it's been a process, but I thought tonight was a big step up for our quarterback. Our offense elevated itself against great competition on the road.”
Golson sat out last week's win over BYU and wasn't cleared to play Saturday until he passed concussion tests early in the week.
An Irish offense that had been lampooned as a potential impediment to any national title hopes came though with big, electric plays that Oklahoma's prolific offense couldn't.
In the first quarter, senior Cierre Wood burst through the Sooner defense for a 62-yard touchdown run.
Then in the fourth, after Oklahoma had tied the game on Bell's 1-yard touchdown run — the first rushing score the Irish defense has allowed all season — Golson faked a handoff and delivered a perfect throw behind OU's secondary to Chris Brown.
Golson's 1-yard touchdown run a few plays later put the Irish up 20-13.
“Every time we got momentum in the game, we kind of lost it immediately,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
“Fourth quarter, in these two losses, we just didn't play good enough. ... That was disappointing that we didn't play well down the stretch.”
Oklahoma's comeback hopes were dashed for good when Notre Dame's Dan Fox hit receiver Jalen Saunders and popped the ball loose.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o dove and intercepted the football — the catch was reviewed and upheld — putting a final stamp on his impressive game and growing Heisman Trophy campaign.
Te'o finished with 11 tackles, leading the charge for a Notre Dame defense that held the Sooners to a paltry 15 rushing yards on 38 carries — a 0.6 per-carry average.
“For us, we knew what we could do,” Te'o said. “Today is no surprise. We knew that if we came into today and worked with confidence that we would be fine.”
Oklahoma was doing fine until Saturday; the Sooners had bounced back from the Kansas State loss with an impressive three-game win streak, and appeared to be firmly back in the BCS discussion.
Now, all OU can do is watch as two 2012 visitors that left Owen Field with a win — each 8-0 after Saturday — play on in the national-title race.
“It hurt,” said junior safety Tony Jefferson. “This one hurt a lot.
“We have to show some character and turn around. We have five games left to see what we can do.”