SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Football royalty collides Saturday on the campus of Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome. Oklahoma-Notre Dame. The Leprechaun and the Schooner. Luck of the Irish meets Sooner Magic.
Except luck and magic have nothing to do with how the Sooners and Irish ascended to exalted status in college football. Sort of like how luck and magic had nothing to do with Notre Dame's 30-13 victory in Norman a year ago, or the Irish's 9-1 series domination, and don't figure to have anything to do with this showdown.
Notre Dame blocked better and tackled better. Same as in 1952-53, and 1957, and 1961-62, and 1966, and 1968, and 1999.
Ed Frost, my historian friend whose family in 1952 drove from Hobart to Oklahoma City to rent a room at the Biltmore Hotel so they could watch the inaugural OU-Notre Dame game, said it well last year: “Notre Dame didn't win all those games by luck. They won with great coaches, great players, great blocking and tackling.”
The 1958 Notre Dame yearbook, referring to the epic 1957 upset that ended OU's 47-game winning streak, called the Sooners just “another undersized Southern team.”
Not every game in the 21st century is won that old-fashioned way anymore. But last year's was. So will this year's.
“You've got to block all those guys up front,” Bob Stoops said of Notre Dame's front line, which dominated last October, when the Sooner running game netted 50 yards on 21 carries. “They're very disruptive. Blocking those guys is a big challenge.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly admits his team is outgunned on playmakers. Maybe even at quarterback, where the Irish have a senior, Tommy Rees, with 775 career passes, and OU has Blake Bell making just his second career start.
But Kelly knows not every game is won by wonderful toys.
“Ideally you'd love to be able to … stop the run with even numbers,” Kelly said. “We were able to do that last year most of the time.”