The Sooners had used a two-tight end alignment twice through three quarters at Notre Dame:
* On 4th-and-1 from the Notre Dame 43-yard line in the second quarter, the Sooners lined up with two wide receivers and one running back, and the back went in motion. Blake Bell kept the ball and gained zero.
* On 3rd-and-2 from the Notre Dame 6-yard line midway through the third quarter, the Sooners again lined up with two wide receivers and one running back. OU ran an old-style option play, but a missed block crowded the backfield and Bell was tossed for a three-yard loss.
So early in the fourth quarter, facing 3rd-and-3 from the OU 46-yard line, it seemed a little dicey when the Sooners again lined up in a bunched formation. Two wide receivers, one tailback. But this time, with two tight ends on the field, the Sooners didn’t resort to power. Bell took a shotgun snap, dropped quickly back to pass and fired a short pass to Sterling Shepard, who was cutting across the field. Shepard split Notre Dame’s defenders and completed a 54-yard touchdown pass that gave OU a 33-21 lead.
Bob Stoops on Monday said the Sooners weren’t necessarily trying to set up that play. “We’re not looking to have a bunch of bad plays to get one,” Stoops said. “But you’re right, it sets to protect a quarterback better or set up certain things you want to get to.”
Stoops said it’s not uncommon for defenses to stifle certain sets better than others. That’s why Notre Dame, a power team by almost any definition, was well-suited for OU’s double-tight end formation and why the Sooners spent most of the game playing without any tight ends.
“That’s why by the third or fourth quarter, there are sets you feel better about,” Stoops said.
But the lack of success with the double-tight formation set up the big pass. The Sooners had shown nothing but simple power running with two tight ends. Then they sprung Shepard into the clear out of a bunched formation, and victory was in hand in South Bend.