For those expecting Saturday night to be the evening that the wheels finally fell off the Notre Dame express against Oklahoma, well, I’ve got some bad news for you: The Irish aren’t going anywhere. On the Saturday, the Irish got another signature win, stunning the Sooners 30-13 in Norman.
And unlike so many of their other wins, this one came courtesy of the offense.
Well, that’s not entirely fair, given that the Irish once again shut down another high-powered offensive attack. In this case it was Oklahoma, which entered Saturday ranked fifth in the country and averaging 44 points a game. Still, we’ll get to Manti Te’o and the defense in a second; because ultimately what Saturday will be remembered for the Notre Dame offense. And it’ll be remembered for quarterback Everett Golson in specific.
Simply put, the redshirt freshman played his best game in a Notre Dame uniform Saturday, finishing the evening with 15 completions in 25 pass attempts for 177 yards. And it was his longest completion of the night which proved to be the most important of the game. It was also possibly the Irish’s most important of the season.
That pass came late in the fourth quarter, just two plays after Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell had rushed for a touchdown to tie the game up 13 apiece. Facing their first real adversity of the game, Golson stayed calm, and hit a streaking Chris Brown for 50 yards down field for what proved to be a game, and possibly season changing completion. A couple plays later, Golson pounded the ball in for a score to give the Irish a 20-13 lead they would never give up.
Of course to talk strictly about Golson would be to take away from what might have been the Irish’s best defensive effort of the season. Sure the Irish have given up fewer points and fewer yards against different opponents, but none came against the firepower of a team like the Sooners, which came into Saturday averaging 52 points a game in their last three wins. Safe to say they didn’t come anywhere close to sniffing that total Saturday.
And of course on the defense, the star of the game was Manti Te’o, the senior linebacker who continues to play himself into Heisman contention every single time he steps on the field. In the same way that Golson’s big pass to Chris Brown sparked the Notre Dame offense on Saturday, Te’o had an interception on the next possession which sparked the defense as well. It was the final nail in the coffin for the Sooners, who are now 5-2 on the season and appear to be permanently on the outside looking in of the BCS title chase.
Speaking of that title chase, with the win it is damn near impossible not to consider Notre Dame a real BCS title contender at this point, which is a far cry from where the Irish were entering the day. Sure the Irish entered Saturday undefeated and at No. 5 in the BCS standings, but with the schedule they played, many questioned how good the Irish truly were. Their best wins, against teams like Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford didn’t look nearly good at the end of October as many expected them to be in August.
But with the win over Oklahoma serving as a signature victory, there is no doubt that Notre Dame’s name belongs in the discussion with Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon and a handful of one loss teams that are true title contenders. How far they move up in the standings will be determined when the new BCS rankings come out Sunday, but it is safe to say that the Irish are firmly in the discussion of true BCS title contenders.
And frankly, as we enter November, where else would a college football team want to be?
For all his opinion, insight and analysis, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.