DEFENSE BENDS, THEN FINISHES STRONG
On the second play of the fourth quarter in Oklahoma's 35-21 win at Notre Dame on Saturday night, Fighting Irish tight end Troy Niklas caught a Tommy Rees pass with no Sooners defenders anywhere close and Niklas cruised in for a 30-yard touchdown.
After the play, Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was upset with defensive back Quentin Hayes. OU head coach Bob Stoops soon joined his brother's “conversation” with Hayes.
It wasn't the first time the Sooners had coverage issues in the second half.
“That goes back to the way they were running the ball,” Mike Stoops said. “It got us out of whack. I had a feeling that was coming. Our position wasn't what it needed to be and structurally that's my fault. We just have to come up with a little more variety, which we are learning through this process as we go along.”
After Niklas' score, though, Notre Dame couldn't move the ball. Rees completed a 9-yard pass on the first play of the next drive, then the Fighting Irish were stopped for a 2-yard loss on a run and Rees missed on his last seven pass attempts to end the game.
IKARD CREDITS COOPER
At the top of the tunnel after the win, Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard found Sooners assistant offensive line coach — and former teammate — Jon Cooper and picked Cooper up in an embrace.
“Me and him get a little fired up when we're together,” Ikard said. “He's been a great mentor for me and Ty (Darlington) both, teaching us technique at center and teaching us to see things on the field.”
Ikard gave Cooper and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh credit for different blocking schemes this week, helping the Sooners run for more than 200 yards after rushing for just 15 a year ago against the Irish.
“Using things he's taught me, I've become a lot better player,” Ikard said.
With Notre Dame's offense, the Sooners used four linebackers, more than they have early in the season, opening opportunities for freshman Dominique Alexander.
Alexander saw extensive playing time and finished with four tackles, the second-most for the linebackers.
“He learned a couple of tough lessons today,” linebackers coach Tim Kish said. “He has some growing up to do, but I thought he played his heart out. We've just got to keep getting him better down the road.”
“If we're going to beat Oklahoma at Oklahoma, we have to play a lot better than we did today.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson after his team's 48-17 win over SMU. The Horned Frogs play at OU at 6 p.m. Saturday.