NBC analyst Mike Mayock credited OU's speed for propelling the Sooners to a 35-21 victory over an outmanned Notre Dame team Saturday in the national telecast on NBC.
“I think that's the tale of the tape today, elite team speed for Oklahoma,” Mayock said late in the broadcast. “It really showed today.”
Mayock said he thought that asset would translate into a strong season for the Sooners, but he had concerns about their physical strength. “I wonder whether they can hold up against the big teams in the SEC in the running game.”
Fortunately for the Sooners, they play in the Big 12 and wouldn't meet an SEC team until a bowl game.
Mayock, who watched OU's practice Tuesday, said he thought Sooner players had an “edge” in that they had something to prove after being pushed around in last year's 30-13 loss to the Irish in Norman.
“They wanted to prove not just that they have team speed but also physicality.”
Mayock credited the Sooners' secondary for curtailing the Irish passing attack. “For the second week in a row, aggressive man-to-man coverage has thrown the Notre Dame passing attack out of whack. They don't have a bunch of wide receivers to win … The passing attack has looked horrendous.”
Alex Flanagan, one of the top network sideline reporters, took a cheap shot from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly when she asked him about OU's man-to-man coverage. Kelly said two interceptions that gave OU a quick 14-0 lead were the difference.
“If you were watching the game, Alex, it was a sack that forced the ball out of Tommy (Rees),” he said. “It had nothing to do with man coverage.”
On offense, Mayock praised OU's scheme against giant Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix. “It's been a tough day for Louis Nix and a lot of that has to do with (Gabe) Ikard and even more of it has been the coaching staff and the schemes.”
OU's running backs also were complimented. “The running backs run aggressively, including quarterback Blake Bell. You don't get any freebies tackling these guys.”
He also said the running attack reminded him of an earlier era, Bud Wilkinson's single-wing attack from the 1950s. “What goes around, comes around.”
Mayock praised Bell in finding Lacoltan Bester in the back of the end zone for a 26-yard TD pass to give the Sooners a 21-7 lead. “I thought it was pretty cool Blake Bell in his first start on the road was able to be patient for the touchdown.”