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Five things we learned: Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13

Oct 28, 2012, 1:39 AM EDT

Manti Te'o, Stephon Tuitt

Games like this built the legend. Thunder shaking and echo-waking, it could only be built upon a tradition of winning big match-ups like this, what though the odds.  No. 5 Notre Dame added another brick to the house that Rockne built with its incredible 30-13 victory over No. 8 Oklahoma. And after 20 years of hype before substance, corporate ambiance over traditionally dominance, the Irish turned back the clock with a huge win, forcing themselves into a still-crowded national title conversation with an improbable upset over an Oklahoma team that was almost two-touchdown favorites.

This was vintage stuff, led by Manti Te’o and an Irish defense that bent but didn’t break, and a young quarterback that grew up in front of capacity crowd in Norman, Oklahoma. With the win, Notre Dame moves to 8-0, with a clear path to 11-0 and a date with destiny in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the five things we learned.

1. Everybody in the stadium knew Notre Dame needed to run the ball to win. And the Irish did it anyway.

Few stats tell the story of a football game like this one: 215-15. That was Notre Dame’s dominance in rushing yards, with Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and Everett Golson running through the Sooners, while the vaunted Oklahoma running game crashed to a halt.

Few things silence a crowd like an effective running game. And with the Sooners up-tempo offense putting the Irish on their heels early, Wood put an early dagger into the side of the Owen Field crowd when he burst up the middle for a stunning 62-yard touchdown run. The sprint pushed the Irish ahead 7-3 and gave Notre Dame the early lead it desperately needed.

From there, it was pretty impressive stuff for the Irish offensive line, with the impressive effort becoming standard fare for Harry Hiestand‘s linemen. The Sooners had only yielded 3.8 yards a carry and just under 140 yards a game. Against Notre Dame, they gave up 5.5 yards a carry and 215 yards, all of them earned against Mike Stoops‘ defense that certainly didn’t think the Irish passing attack was capable of beating them.

As the calendar turns to November and running the ball becomes even more important, Notre Dame now knows it can trust its two premiere runners. In Wood, the Irish have a slippery back with game-breaking skills. In Riddick, they have a slasher that isn’t afraid to gain the hard yards inside, sealing the game with a 15-yard touchdown that encapsulates his role on the team.

With Notre Dame needing to run the ball to win, the fact that the Irish did it when everybody else in the world knew it was coming is the next step in offensive competency. Saturday night was a huge step forward for this football team.

***

2. With the weight of Notre Dame Nation on his shoulders, Everett Golson stepped up and played the hero.

His numbers don’t shine, but Everett Golson did everything asked of him Saturday night. In completing 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards, Golson didn’t light the world on fire, but he moved the chains, played mistake-free football, and was the confident leader Kelly was hoping would appear.

Golson wasn’t the most impressive quarterback on the field, but he was the one that played like the veteran. No snaps rolled through his legs, no miscommunications hurt his team. He knew when to throw it away, he knew when to tuck it and run, and he did his best to silence a gigantic crowd, helping the Irish convert seven of 15 third downs, just about all of them critical.

The sophomore quarterback still knows how to send a chill through Irish fans everywhere, whether its holding the football like a loaf of bread or taking a gut-busting hit. But after suffocating under the pressure against Michigan, Golson stood tall against the Sooners and helped deliver a win.

No time was that more clear than when Golson hit freshman wide receiver Chris Brown on a beautiful 50-yard completion, with the towering spiral falling right into the young receivers hands for the first catch of his career. It was a throw Golson missed earlier in the game, but he dusted himself off and let it fly again, completing the crucial pass when Notre Dame needed it most.

In Golson, the Irish have something Tommy Rees — and a lot of other quarterbacks across America — can’t be. A talented runner, a playmaker, and a wildcard when the play breaks down. On Saturday night, that wildcard turned into trump, and Golson led the Irish to their biggest win in a decade.

***

3. Manti Te’o wrote another chapter in his legend, and forced his name into the Heisman conversation.

In a week where Manti Te’o‘s stock off the field pushed further through the ceiling after this story came to light, the senior linebacker played a game for the ages on Saturday night, making a dozen tackles, sacking quarterback Landry Jones once, and catching an acrobatic interception that helped ice the game for the Irish.

At this point, we’re running out of superlatives for Te’o, with us half-expecting him to rescues a cat from a tree at halftime. But on Saturday night, he raised the bar again, showing himself to be one of the country’s most complete players, making tackles in space, playing well in coverage, getting after the quarterback, and helping shut down the Sooners running game in Notre Dame’s biggest game of the seasn.

A Heisman Trophy candidate is only as good as his football team. Usually that’d disqualify a Notre Dame player’s candidacy, as it did with Brady Quinn in 2005. But with the Irish 8-0 and Te’o playing at his best in front of a national audience, the Heisman chatter should rightfully turn itself into a full-fledged conversation.

***

4. For a program in search of a signature win, Brian Kelly cemented his place at Notre Dame on Saturday night.

For the naysayers, Notre Dame’s win might have finally muzzled those that weren’t sure Brian Kelly had what it takes to be the head coach of the Fighting Irish. On the biggest stage of the year in enemy territory, Notre Dame came out and played their best, embodying everything Kelly said he wanted to build in his football team.

The Irish played stifling defense. Notre Dame ran the football with impunity. And on a night where the margin for error was slim, the Irish played all but error-free football, with only one penalty for five yards. This was a signature win for a head coach waking up the echoes in his third year in South Bend, a season where the cream usually rises to the top.

Saturday night was Kelly’s best game on the Irish sidelines. He consistently kept Bob Stoops and the Sooners off-balance with his playcalling on offense. He was tight but aggressive, limiting the Sooners’ opportunities with the football, but not falling into the pitfalls of a conservative game plan.

Just about everything Notre Dame needed to do, they did. Offensively, the Irish cobbled together a win with a young quarterback learning how to be great and an offensive line that put the team on its shoulders. Defensively, the Irish rode their star player, stuck with a four man pass rush, and stiffened in the red zone. It was a text book performance by a head coach that clearly knows the winning blue print for his team, even if it wasn’t the one that got him the job at Notre Dame.

There will be plenty of time for national kudos and postseason accolades. But facing an identity crisis last December after falling to Florida State and ending another season 8-5, Kelly doubled-down on himself, and those changes made all the difference in the world.

***

5. Celebrate tonight’s victory as hard as you want, but you’re a fool if you don’t think danger lies ahead.

This similarities between tonight’s victory and the 2002 win over Florida State in Tallahassee are uncanny. While the Irish didn’t need special teams fortune and plenty of good luck to spring the upset this evening, Notre Dame’s last 8-0 season suffered a heart-breaking failure just a Saturday later, when the Irish fell to Boston College 14-7 after a stunning implosion.

Now it’s time for Notre Dame to keep an eye on the prize. Because looking too far ahead could be intoxicating. After a win over the Sooners, the schedule opens up nicely for the Irish. With Florida’s loss, the Irish knock another SEC team out of their way, pushing them up the BCS rankings by default.

With 4-4 Pitt next Saturday, downtrodden Boston College in two weeks, and a mediocre Wake Forest team following that, Notre Dame should be heavy favorites in their next three football games. And with Arizona moving the ball at will on USC in their upset of the Trojans, the recipe has been established for beating Lane Kiffin’s talented but flawed team on Thanksgiving weekend.

In 2002, the Irish lost after donning green jerseys and getting a case of fumble-itis that will likely never be duplicated again. The Irish laid the ball on the turf an astonishing seven times, losing three. Add in an interception and winning the yardage battle by almost 200 yards wasn’t enough to beat the Eagles, who have made their name on crushing Irish dream seasons.

Brian Kelly has said all the right things when it comes to avoiding the noise and not believing the press and hype that come with playing for one of America’s most popular teams. His job will become even harder starting tomorrow, with Notre Dame feeding crow to dozens of talking heads across the national airwaves.

But this journey is far from complete. With the Irish entering the season’s final quarter, Notre Dame need to keep their head down and plow forward, continuing to do the things that got them this far.

It’s certainly easier said than done, especially after a historic win like this.

175 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. bearcatirishfan - Oct 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Sassy, thank you for being classy and gracious. I wish there were more college football fans like you. I wish the spooners the best for the rest of the season. The only people I have no respect for are mark may and Colin cowturd. They get nothing.

    Ps anyone else read the link about teo and the email misty eyed? What a Great person, forget football player PERSON.

    • 1oharalassie - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      The more I read and learn about Manti Te’o the Man, not the football player, the more I like this young man. In this world of me, me, me and I, I, I’s, it is wonderful that Manti is his own man and is following what his mom and dad taught him and his belief in God to direct him in how to a better person and think of others before himself. I lost my father to cancer when I was 14 and that was hard enough on me. I cannot imagine having that loss multiplied by 2 in the same day and still be able to think of others before myself. I believe that great things are going to come Manti’s way and football fame is only going to be a vehicle that will bring it to light. God Bless you Manti and thank you for something positive for others to follow.

    • sassysooner - Oct 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      ;) Thanks bearcatirishfan! It’s all for the love of the game.

  2. fitz79 - Oct 28, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    #1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. norcalirish - Oct 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Man, some great posts on here.

    halfwhitey, thanks for the list, it was enjoyable to read and made me proud of third kids. Many of them seem to have perspective.

    Smurfdoggie: yes! I dig it, getting me all hyped up.

    Almoose: I’m right there with you. I saw BK yelling at the coach and I just thought it could have waited until later. Use that timeout to strategize, not scream at people. (Great list btw)

    Then again, BK was masterful in this game. For somebody who has f-ed up so many times (Tulsa…need I say more?) he sure seems to learn from his mistakes. Now, just keep your hands off the natural grass BK.

    sassysooner: well done. My best to you and yours.

    As always, nice article and good posts by the regulars.

    One game at a time! Can’t wait to see that #1 lit up.

    I’ll see you in LA.

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 28, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Here’s a fun piece of trivia: Can you name the DE that transferred to USF because he missed his girlfriend?
    A: Aaron Lynch. I wonder whatever happened to him? Man, I’ve seen some bad decisions in my day, but that’s gotta take the cake.

    • bernhtp - Oct 28, 2012 at 6:47 PM

      He’s not thinking about football right now. He’s waking up all night dealing with a screaming baby and trying to figure out what happened to his life.

    • papadec - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:23 PM

      We should layoff the kid, already. He made a decision that he thought was in the best interest of his girlfriend, child & himself. I respect him for manning-up. His personal life has no business here, any longer. Could he, or we, have made a better decision? Doesn’t matter – it was his decision.

      • Jennifer - Oct 31, 2012 at 12:56 AM

        5 stars papadec…Could’t agree more. I think he chose the road best traveled for him, and it was a stand-up decision, all, to rare in “celebrity players” these days. I followed his recruiting from the get-go, and saw a strong possibility veer in his course as 80-20. I applaud his choice, and wish him much success.

  5. ihatemistate - Oct 28, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    NOTRE DAME: JUST STAY FOCUSED!! DON’T LET THIS BIG WIN EFFECT NEXT WEEK!!!

    • ihatemistate - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:08 PM

      Whoever gave a thumbs down on this kills me. Everyone’s pumped about yesterday’s win, just saying win one at a time. Why would you thumbs down that???

      • papadec - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:25 PM

        ihate – trolls, or msu fans – one and the same though.

      • bernhtp - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:40 AM

        I gave you a thumbs down. Why?

        1. You somehow thinking that your point was so profound and important that it warranted all caps. Well, it wasn’t.

        2. You misspelled “affect.”

        3. You’re wasting all that hate on MSU when USC is still coming up.

        4. You complained about people giving you a thumbs down. Frankly, that just asking for it. I didn’t give mine until I read the complaint post.

      • nudeman - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        bern
        LOFL

  6. rpbags - Oct 28, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    I wonder what Arron Lynch is thinking about as he is wrapped up next to his lil girlfriend, sitting on the couch and saying to himself “man i could of been a part of this” but sitting here with you under our my little pony blanket makes me feel all better inside lol……….Awsome game, great job irish, keep it going and lets do the damn thing…….

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 28, 2012 at 10:06 PM

      When I rag on Lynch I get lectured and 5 thumbs down. When you come along 2 1/2 hours later and do the same, you get 5 thumbs up. What gives? Lynch bit off his nose to spite his face. He could’ve been a contender. I wish him well on a personal level, but you can’t tell me this wasn’t one of the worst, most short-sighted decisions a college athlete ever made.

      • stempke98 - Oct 29, 2012 at 7:20 AM

        The idea that someone wanting to be closer to his child is “short sighted” is one of the more ridiculous things that ND fans say about Aaron Lynch. A child only has one first step, one first word, etc. You don’t get those moments back. Who are we to tell Aaron Lynch that playing football for Notre Dame is more important than that?

        In this era of high rates of absentee parents, Aaron should be applauded for putting his child first. Are we, as ND fans disappointed to lose a player of his caliber? Absolutely. But let’s keep things in perspective a little bit here. Wish him luck and move on. Holding grudges against teenagers trying to figure out what is best for themselves is not a good look.

      • irish4006 - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:49 PM

        Grow up, you idiots (jersey and rp). There are many things in this world that are bigger than football. It is possible that he made a bad decision (girlfriend could move to South Bend instead), but we don’t know everything that has been going on in all our players’ lives.

  7. nudeman - Oct 28, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    First … where is my buddy Goat? I figure even he would hug it out with me today
    Second … is there anyone out there who HONESTLY thought we’d be 8-????

    • papadec - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:30 PM

      nude – I DID!!!!!! Put money on ND to win the BCS title back on March 12th.

      • nudeman - Oct 28, 2012 at 10:15 PM

        Prove it

      • papadec - Oct 30, 2012 at 3:36 AM

        nude – LUXOR – $20.00 Straight Bet 2013 BCS CHAMPIONSHIP 3057 NOTRE DAME Event Date 1/10/13 Win $360.00 to pay $380.00 Ticket Cost $20.00 is what is printed on the ticket. Oh yeah – 12Mar2012 20:28:05 (that’s when my son bought the ticket for me – he was in Vegas, on Spring break). I didn’t do so well on the Yankees winning the ALCS or WS. There is some other stuff on the ticket too – but not very relevant, and I can’t duplicate the bar code.

    • madmick69 - Oct 29, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      Yep…I’m not going to tell you that I bet on anything cause that’s just not me. If I bet I lose, it’s the equivalent of me driving down the highway and throwing money out the window of my truck. Only ND game I ever bet on was the FSU vs. ND game in ’93 and that was $5 with a guy who was from Florida in my platoon.

      To the point though yes I thought that ND could and would be 8-0, I thought the OU game would have been closer but after the BYU game I did have a really good feeling about the running game. Two questions loomed though, which EG would show up and how would the D deal with Jones flinging the ball all over the field.

      As long as Kelly keeps them focused the sky is the limit and with a little help the Irish will be in the NC game.

  8. almoose - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Kelly is a Coach that wins! The AD and fans need to say prayers that he keeps cool in situations that he controls himself such that he stays the Coach ND certanily needs to win the National Title. All those with the thums down on my blogs know deep inside what has been stated is true and needs to happen. Anger Management with the AD and Kelly once a week to keep control and be there to lead this great team to the Championship. P/S he Kelly needs to acknowledge Tom Rees for the play he made to keep the drive going Saturday. Kelly appears to hold a grudge from the past towards Rees. Without Tom it’s ND 4 and 4

    • bernhtp - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:42 AM

      Seriously?

    • mayo1010 - Oct 29, 2012 at 8:17 AM

      almoose–i believe you may have some emotionaly issues! Back away from sharp objects slowly!!!!!

    • chicagoirish23 - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      Head coaches yell at assistant coaches when they screw up. They do it all the time. Do you want Bob Stoops to be dressed down by their AD because of his tirade at the official? Charlie Weis, a person who is not too liked on this board, told a great story about his time moving up through the ranks of professional football. He mentioned how Bill Parcells undressed him for speaking out of turn in front of the entire staff.

      Football coaches have a peculiar job. It can be a short lived and involves a lot of moving of the family. To be successful at it, you need to have a thick skin. Scott Booker, the coach Kelly yelled at, is a young up and comer. I can care less on how Kelly talks to his assitants, he spends countless hours throughout the week w/ them. The amazing thing about Brian Kelly, his assistants are extremely loyal to him. The guys that have been w/ him, Diaco, Cooks, Elston and even Chuck Martin, have coached w/ him for a long time. He gets fiery, but they respect him. Scott Booker got his start from Kelly, and I’m sure he is thanking him for it.

      On to Tommy Rees…What the hell are you talking about? Everyone outside of that football team in NDNation is screaming every time Rees comes into the game. The one person who definitely respects and cares about Rees is Brian Kelly. He goes out of his way in every press conference (when asked about him) to explain how much of a professional and a constant team player he is.

      You sure do critize a lot w/out bringing a lot of knowledge to back up your comments.

    • ihatemistate - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      almoose-not sure about the Tommy Rees stuff but you are right about the rest. Kelly has calmed down alot and needs to stay that way. Ignore the thumbs down crap. I guess the truth hurts.

  9. mmcss690 - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Almoose, Coach Kelly will take responsibility for apologizing to the coach when you decide to get in touch with reality….not likely to happen. It’s FOOTBALL, get a grip! Lighten up a little and let the coaches work together as they have all season. Thanks for posting. Bye-bye.

  10. almoose - Oct 28, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    OK I am off it! I move on. My God Bless the Students, Players, Parents, Community, Teachers, Coaches, Priest and this Proud University that provides quality Education and enlightened Students for our wonderful Country.

    • nudeman - Oct 28, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      You brought nothing
      Sorry … bye

  11. dutch31 - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    I must comment on Kellys demeanor and his tirades. First, he has definately taken a much calmer demeanor this year. That is certainly not by accident, but there can be no mistake he is in charge, he is the boss. Etc. Kelly has his team believing, and they are playing as hard and as focused as any team I have seen. His players have completely bought in, and for that we have to give him credit.
    Now, he still has his moments where he yells. During those moments he is letting the player or coach why he feels they messed up or what they did wrong. From what I have seen when he is making his point he expects the player or coach to look him in the eye until he is finished. Case in point, when Turk punted the ball in the end zone at the end of the BYU game. Kellly yelled at him, made his point, Turk looked him in the eye the whole time and it was over.
    From what I saw the asst coach walked away from him and thats what brought out the extra ire and screaming we saw there. He is the boss when he is talking he expects your attention! I believe his whole approach this year has been perfect, he has the pulse of his team and staff. The results speak for themself. Go Irish! Beat Pitt!!

    • notredameirish1980 - Oct 29, 2012 at 6:13 AM

      Agree, I believe he was yelling at the TE position coach for Troy Niklas getting on the field late. Team needs to stay focused at a critical juncture of a tight game. Same thing happened last week before GAIII touchdown. You could see him calling for Atkinson to get on the field. I know they are 18-22 yo kids, but the position coach is a responsible adult and professional. Look at the end of the Alabama game where Saban is demonstrating his ire over a false start during a kneel down. Expectations need to be met and exceeded to play consistent championship football. Overall, I would take this more as righteous indignation than the purple-faced tirades of last year. I think BK has made a dramatic improvement, but give him the chance to be human.

    • mayo1010 - Oct 30, 2012 at 7:27 AM

      Well said Dutch! It’s called tough love and nobody (players & coaches) ever take it personally!

  12. bosoxdiehard - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:28 AM

    “Saturday night was Kelly’s best game on the Irish sidelines. He consistently kept Bob Stoops and the Sooners off-balance with his playcalling on offense. He was tight but aggressive, limiting the Sooners’ opportunities with the football, but not falling into the pitfalls of a conservative game plan.”

    It wasn’t too long (well, 2 years ago) when the Irish gambled going for the end zone but lost against Tulsa. Didn’t Kelly tell us to “get used to it …”?

    Yes, it rubbed a few people the wrong way but Kelly kept at it and in year 3, look at what is happening.

  13. norcalirish - Oct 29, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Dude, who gives a poop about thumbs down on a web site filled with people you’ll never meet? I used to, and then I realized that thumbs down on a blog are about as relevant as reggie bush’s Heisman. (hey oh!)

    Then again, I’m on an iPad and haven’t seen thumbs (be them up or down) in a year—there apparently isn’t an app for that. <—see what I did there?

    almoose—preach on brother. I can totally see where you're coming from, and your posts are welcome here as far as I'm concerned.

    No field turf.

  14. millersirish1986 - Oct 29, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    Coach kelly is a breath of fresh air…look at the way lou would handle certain situations, grabbing facemasks and getting in peoples a$$…brian kelly is trying to change a culture of mediocrity that has been there for around 15 years and you dont do that by holding peoples hands, especially that of a coach who is getting paid pretty good and that he depends on to have his things in order…GO IRISH!!!

  15. mimefrog - Oct 29, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I just wanted to put this on record: From what I’ve seen, the Sooners fan base is really classy. I took a peek at their blogs and forums and came away really impressed with the tone of the conversation, both before and after the game.

    This is a good team for us to play. Win or lose, do it with the right attitude!

    GO IRISH!!!

  16. notredave - Oct 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Just a couple more comments/observations about Saturdays game. We had third row-just right of center end zone seats. During Notre Dame’s pre-game warm ups there was a group of about four to five Sooner fans ribbing the ND players. Every time Dan Fox would go by them, they would say,” Hey look, Erin Andrews plays for the Irish.” Lol. Also, those same fans said something to Everett when he chased a ball that went to the wall. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but nothing about it looked confrontational…in fact, Everett was smiling the whole time while shaking his head. Lastly, KeiVarae Russell should win some kind of team award at the end of the season.Not sure if he played defense in high school, but this kid can deliver a hit. Not a Deon Sanders hit either…a real hit. And he wraps up real nice too. GO IRISH! BEAT PITT!

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