Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Notre Dame gave up its first rushing touchdown of the season, when 6-foot-6, 260-pound Blake Bell shook off Ishaq Williams and rumbled forward, running through Bennett Jackson on his way to a touchdown.
Ah, but the good news… It was nothing but gravy after that for No. 5 Notre Dame, who put a physical beating on No. 8 Oklahoma, a team favored by as much as 13 points right before kickoff.
Let’s run through some snap judgments before we get deeper later tonight.
No George Atkinson, no big deal.
Sure, the Irish missed Atkinson’s big play potential, but Cam McDaniel did just fine on the kickoff returns. The Irish won the game thanks to their two primary running backs, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Wood’s 62-yard touchdown run broke open the game, when it appeared that the Irish were on their heels after the Sooners started quick. Riddick iced the game with his 15 yard touchdown run, and ran hard between the tackles, gaining 74 yards on 19 tough carries.
In a game like this, Atkinson was a guy that was likely going to get lost in the wash, with special teams the primary place he was going to make an impact. But in a 17 point victory, it’s tough to say anybody was missing.
Sooners brought tempo, but Irish had the answers.
Oklahoma came out blazing, running the offense with efficiency, moving quickly and taking advantage of soft underneath coverage throughout. Landry Jones completed 35 of 51 passes for 356 yards, and he continued to target Jalen Saunders underneath, racking up a ridiculous 15 catches for 181 yards.
But when it came down to it, the Irish had the answers in the red zone, forcing field goals instead of touchdowns and doing a great job from the end of the first quarter until the fourth, when the Sooners punted five times and got one field goal.
Against their biggest test, Notre Dame’s defense came up huge.
Belldozer scored, but the Sooners running game got stuffed.
With fourth and short and Blake Bell on the field, Bob Stoops had his sledgehammer of a quarterback throw for the first down. Sure it led to a touchdown, but perhaps it showed more than the Sooners’ head coach was willing to acknowledge.
Notre Dame absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage, outgaining Oklahoma 215-15 on the ground. Sure, Bell got his rushing touchdown. But Notre Dame absolutely dominated the Sooners on the ground, taking control of the game and the clock and never giving it back.
Everett Golson grew up tonight.
We said it all week. If Notre Dame was going to win, Everett Golson had to play his best game in a Notre Dame uniform. And he did.
The stats weren’t staggering: 13 of 25 passing for 177 yards, and 11 carries for 64 yards, but Golson was flawless. He threw the ball away, he commanded the offense and he made the big plays when they were needed.
Vegas was wrong.
You certainly can’t blame a town that’s probably built a few towers taking advantage of Irish fans’ optimism. But this was the Saturday that was supposed to be the reckoning. And instead, it plunged the Irish into the national title conversation.
The Irish took Oklahoma’s best shot, with the Sooners coming back to tie the game at 13 in the fourth quarter. But instead of laying down, they rattled off 17 straight points, running away from the Sooners, and ending any discussion about Notre Dame’s schedule or the Irish’s ability to play with the country’s premiere talent.