Notre Dame football is officially back, boys and girls. There’s no getting around it now.
On the road. Against an offense averaging 44 points per game. A redshirt freshman quarterback against a defense allowing 15 points per game. All of this added up to what most thought would be the unraveling a Fighting Irish football team that had outplayed that talent it actually had.
Well, after the final whistle blew, the team no one thought should be ranked #5 in the nation had outplayed an Oklahoma team many thought was back on the upswing, and beat them handily, 30-13. And not to pat myself on the back or anything, but the Irish won the game doing exactly the same things I said they needed to do to win:
Run the ball: The Irish running backs (and Golson) totaled 215 yards on the ground, scoring three touchdowns (one each by Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and Golson).
Stop the run: Notre Dame’s defense came into this game allowing 106.7 yards per game.Oklahomaaveraged just under 200 yards of running offense. The result?Oklahomawas able to gain a total of 15 yards, though they were the first to score a rushing touchdown against Notre Dame this year.
Roll Everett Golson out of the pocket and make plays with his legs: Golson constantly moved out of the pocket, staying away fromOklahoma’s defense. He did have one big pass play of 50 yards to wide receiver Chris Brown. But he was able to keep multiple drives alive while running the ball, including the go-ahead touchdown with 5 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Limit mistakes: The Irish survived all game without a single turnover, and were only called for 1 penalty for 5 yards. In a road game against a top 8 team with fans as rabid as the Sooners’ fans, that it down right impressive.
This was hands down Golson’s best game. Not because he threw up huge numbers passing the ball (indeed, he only completed 13 passes for 177 yards), but because he made smart decisions when he did throw the ball. This is probably the stiffest defense that he will see the rest of the season, unless they meetAlabamain the National Championship. Golson still needs to progress his game to take this team that far, but I really liked what the young man showed in this game last night in a tough environment.
The one area that was really a point of concern was the Notre Dame pass defense. They gave up way too many wide open passes in the middle of the field. Sooner quarterback Landry Jones completed 35 of 51 passes (68.6%) for 356 yards. Luckily, the “bend, don’t break” defense was able to keep them out of the end zone all but once.
And how can we go without mentioning the performance of Manti Te’o? The standout senior linebacker registered 11 total tackles (2 for a loss), 1 sack, and the lone interception of the game that sealed the victory. He is deserving of any Heisman buzz he gets and has a great shot at being there inNew Yorkwhen the award is handed out.
The Irish now have a good shot at going 11-0, with their next three games being againstPittsburgh, atBostonCollege, and againstWakeForest. If they can keep the momentum going in those games and avoid a trap game situation, it will lead them to the season finale at USC with a potential National Championship game berth on the line. But, as I’m sure head coach Brian Kelly will tell his players, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and focus on next week.
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