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In case you didn’t know: This one is personal for OU fans

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It’s fair to say that Oklahoma isn’t looking at this weekend’s game with Notre Dame as just another Saturday on the calendar.

“Probably the most anticipated game here since 2000, when Nebraska came in here ranked No. 1 in the country and we were No. 2,” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. “It was a pretty incredible day.”

That’s what Notre Dame has waiting for them this weekend at Owen Field, where the No. 8 Sooners will welcome the No. 5 Irish, a game that means quite a bit to Oklahoma fans. How much? Well, I’ll admit I was more than a little surprised when reading this article by the Oklahoman’s Barry Tramel, who explained why Oklahoma fans hate Notre Dame.

Blame it on the 1957 Fighting Irish. Terry Brennan’s squad finished the season with three losses, but walked into Norman and blanked No. 2 Oklahoma 7-0, shocking the Sooners after getting pasted by OU 40-0 the year before and ending the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak. From that moment on… well, it hasn’t been pretty.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire article. But here are a few choice snippets from Tramel’s piece on the OU-ND series, a match-up the Irish own with an 8-1 record.

Jack Laffoon says he never voted for Ronald Reagan, not because of politics, but because Reagan portrayed Notre Dame star George Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.”

“I still remember my mother crying on that dark fall afternoon in 1957,” said Laffoon, then a Tulsa grade schooler and now a retired Air Force man living in Corinth, Texas. “A bunch of papist hooligans had stolen the game from the mighty Sooners.”

And here’s another choice cut, this one comparing Oklahoma’s loss to Notre Dame in 1957 to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In fact, between Oct. 13, 1951, and Oct. 11, 1958, OU lost three games. All to Notre Dame.

Call it a hate-hate relationship Sooner fans have with the Golden Domers.

“Hate is a little too strong, but let’s go with I am intensely interested in the Sooners cleaning their clock,” said Richard Luttrell of Richardson, Texas. “I’m a little too young to remember Nov. 16, 1957, but that date was tattooed in my brain by my parents just like Dec. 7, 1941 — another day of infamy.”

Even though he’s ashamed to admit it, this fan hates Notre Dame so badly he even hates Lindsey Nelson.

Irwin still can recite his access to the Sooners in the pre-Internet days of the 1970s.

One or two televised games per season. Fifteen to 30 seconds of highlights each Saturday during the Prudential College Scoreboard Show with Dave Diles. Three lines of type and a box score in the Sunday paper.

“Do you remember what the Notre Dame fans had?” Irwin asked. “A one-hour … replay hosted by Lindsey Nelson every Sunday morning! Aaaarrrrrrrgh!!!!”

Irwin said he’s embarrassed that the jealousy, “born of youth,” continues to color his perception even though he now has virtually unlimited access to Sooner football.

“I still hope the Irish lose every week,” he said.

As you might expect, the players, 18-23-year-old kids like quarterback Landry Jones, might not have the same disdain for a football program that the Sooners haven’t played since he was ten-years old. But that doesn’t mean he’s not excited for the prime-time match-up, where ESPN’s College GameDay will set up shop this weekend.

“We’re excited for this one,” Jones said after beating Kansas on Saturday 52-7. “I’m not going to say we had Notre Dame marked on our calendar, but we’ve been looking forward to it, for sure. It’s a huge game for this program.”

Jones, the lynchpin of the Sooners offense, and one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, might be best served coming into Saturday with this attitude.

Because if he knew he were playing to avenge Jack Laffoon‘s mother’s tears, that might heap quite a bit of pressure on a college kid.

“The tears were not for the loss of a game alone,” Laffoon said. “The tears were also for the perceived loss of respect our homeplace had suffered.

“The streak brought respect to a state devastated by the Dust Bowl and besmirched by Steinbeck’s portrayal of Okies … for 47 games, we were the kings of the world.

“That was gone, wiped out, never to return and never to be repeated. I had no choice but to instantly despise them and all of their ilk.”

First Tom Joad, and then the Fighting Irish. As we roll forward to Saturday evening’s monumental game, consider this a two-fold reminder. First, Notre Dame fans aren’t the only people who take college football too seriously.

But probably more important: Oklahoma fans really don’t like Notre Dame.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”