[Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (5) scrambles as Oklahoma defensive end Chuka Ndulue (98) defends during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. Photo: Alonzo Adams / AP]
If you read my Notre Dame Football preview back in August you know I certainly did not predict this, but right now I am not complaining. Not one bit.
The fourth-ranked Irish survived yet another test, this one on the road in Norman, Okla., defeating the No. 8 ranked Sooners 30-13. Today ND-nation anxiously awaited to see where the polls would place Notre Dame, and they’ve landed in the No. 4 spot on both the AP and USA Today polls and have grabbed the No. 3 spot in the BCS standings.
Alabama and Oregon still will likely meet in the title game if both win out, but the Irish are at least in the picture again for the first time in years.
The Irish had a slow first half start, managing just 10 points in the first half, but rolled over the Sooners in the second half.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed 13-of-25 passes for 177 yards with no interceptions. He also ran for 64-yards and scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, finishing his first game this season and keeping former starter Tommy Rees on the bench.
Star linebacker Manti Te’o, the leader of Notre Dame’s 11th ranked defense, had one interception and 11 tackles to bolster his potential as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Notre Dame came in at anywhere from a 9 1/2 to 11-point underdog, but that didn’t stop the Irish from piling on 20 points in a decisive fourth quarter.
“What we’d been hearing was a lot of people didn’t think we could win this game. That kind of just added that fuel to my fire that was already burning,” Golson told the media in post game interviews. “We just wanted to come out and show them that we can.”
“We knew what we could do. Today’s no surprise,” Te’o told the media. Te’o has five interceptions and two fumble recoveries so far this season, putting him on many Heisman watch lists. “We knew that if we came to work, we came into today with confidence and everybody doing their job that we would be fine. I’m glad we came out the right way.”
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones completed 35-of-51 passes for 356 yards, with one interception and no touchdowns for the 5-2 Sooners. The Sooners were hoping that a win over the Irish would get them back into the national title race, but no such luck for Oklahoma.
“We’re better than we were at the start of the season,” Jones told the media in post game interviews. “We hit a bump in the road. Maybe the national championship’s not in the picture, that’s probably gone, but we still have the Big 12 and a bowl game up in front of us.”
This was a statement game for the 8-0 Irish. Four of their wins have come against top 25 teams, including two road games against top 10 foes. The national media was flush with praise for Notre Dame, including some from well known naysayers who have finally and reluctantly come around.
“We really don’t think about that. We really don’t care what other people think of us,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters after the game. “(The players) really just care about each other, Notre Dame and winning football games. They’ll let everybody else decide who we are.”
The second-ranked Irish defense was as tough as ever against the Sooners, stopping the long passes and causing Jones and his offense to make mental mistakes under pressure. Oklahoma’s first two red-zone possessions ended with field goals, and the Sooners didn’t score their first touchdown until the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Blake Bell and their “Belldozer” short-yardage run package finally were able to punch one in.
That one tied the game at 13 with 9 minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the game.
Notre Dame wanted to control time of possession and avoid playing catch-up against the Sooners. “That was the way we set up. We were going to give up yards to keep the points down,” Kelly told the media. “We could not let the points get out of reach for us.”
With three potential wins on the horizon for the Irish, Brian Kelly and his staff should have time to continue to develop Golson’s skills. A potential stumbling block is the regular-season finale at USC, but the Trojans are already out of the national title hunt.