Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma: Postgame Grades and Player Analysis for the Irish
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 30-13 and improved to 8-0 on the season.
In a game that featured Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te'o and the Irish defense against Landry Jones and Oklahoma's high-powered offense, Notre Dame controlled the tempo in Norman from start to finish.
With BCS national title implications becoming greater each week, the Irish remain as a legitimate contender for the Coaches' Trophy. To that end, here is a complete postgame analysis for Te'o, coach Brian Kelly and Notre Dame after the important road victory over Bob Stoops and the Sooners.
You can’t say enough about how well Everett Golson played.
Although he went just 13-of-25 passing, Golson did not turn the ball over and when flustered, he simply got rid of it.
Finishing with 177 yards passing, Golson connected with six different players to keep Oklahoma’s defense off-balance. He might be a freshman, but dishing the rock around that well proves Golson has developed emphatically well.
He quickly makes decisions when needing to and displayed impressive patience in the pocket. Include 64 rushing yards and one touchdown and Golson’s ultimate potential took shape in Norman.
According to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com:
George Atkinson III did not make the trip to Norman, Okla., for Saturday night's contest against No. 8 Oklahoma.
Atkinson stayed back at school because of flu-like symptoms, a source told ESPN.com.
Entering a game of this magnitude, Atkinson’s absence was rightfully expected to be costly.
After all, this was a guy who contributed on kickoff returns and was averaging 8.1 yards per carry this season. Well, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood just carried a heavier load by combining for 148 rushing yards on only 26 attempts and two touchdowns.
Together, the duo averaged out to 7.2 yards per carry and totally wore out the Sooners in the trenches.
There wasn’t much overall production from Notre Dame’s receivers against Oklahoma.
That said, it was the impact of T.J. Jones and Co. that propelled the Irish to presenting a balanced attack. Jones led with five catches for 55 yards, and three went for first downs. Elsewhere, freshman Chris Brown made a key reception of 50 yards in the final quarter that led to another Irish touchdown.
Include DaVaris Daniels and Robby Toma, whose combined four catches all moved the chains, and Notre Dame was unstoppable. Even more impactful, though, were the receivers blocking downfield to help the running game.
In short, complete production from the receivers across the board.
Tyler Eifert had just three receptions for 22 yards. Oklahoma did a great job of isolating Eifert’s impact as a receiver, so the tight end resorted to blocking for the running backs.
This aspect literally took center stage on Notre Dame’s first scoring drive when Wood broke up the middle for the long touchdown run. Eifert was able to get to the second level and wall off a defender, which prevented another defensive back from getting in tackling position.
And as the safeties continued to play near the line of scrimmage, Notre Dame was able to enjoy gradual success between the tackles because of Eifert as an additional run-blocker. A byproduct of that is the play-action pass, and that became evident as the game progressed.
Still, a balanced approach does not happen without Eifert’s receiving presence and blocking ability.
On the day, Notre Dame finished with 215 rushing yards on 39 attempts and gained 403 total yards.
Simply put: Credit the offensive line as this group is always the most important unit to any one team. Fortunately for the Irish, the hogs up front allowed minimal pressure of Everett Golson and the quarterback was sacked just one time.
If there’s any single reason as to why Golson has been able to develop despite being a freshman, it’s all the offensive line. Blitzes were picked up and the time for Golson in the pocket was consistently enough for him to survey his reads.
Make no mistake about it, this line is much more athletic than at first glance, which has boded well for Notre Dame thus far.
Notre Dame got just two sacks of Landry Jones, although the defensive line deserves an assist from the constant pressure from linebackers and the secondary.
Beginning with totally controlling the line of scrimmage, Oklahoma gained just 15 rushing yards on 24 attempts. Everything regarding the Sooners’ lack of success on the ground begins and ends with the Irish defensive line clogging gaps and taking on double-teams.
Count Louis Nix’s pass deflect on Oklahoma’s second drive in the first quarter, and that was the catalyst of the Sooners’ frustration. And with this defensive line working well, the linebackers were able to take over.
Manti Te’o finished with 11 tackles, one sack and one interception. That kind of overall production obviously doesn’t happen without the defensive line doing their job.
Te’o, however, still needed to utilize his instincts for making plays in coverage and stuffing the run. Along with him, fellow ‘backer Dan Fox really stood out by covering impressive ground across the intermediate level.
To make matters better, neither Te’o or Fox or any other Irish linebacker allowed many yards after the catch. Jones dumped a few completions on checkdowns, but these linebackers were quick to the ball, and it also showed against the run where few yards after contact were given up.
If there’s a game where Te’o really made a Heisman Trophy statement, though, this was that game.
Just like the linebackers, Notre Dame’s secondary didn’t give up many yards after the catch to Oklahoma’s receivers.
Factor in Jones only completing 35-of-51 passes for 356 yards and those numbers are deceiving. Of those 35 completions, 26 were receipted by a Sooners receiver. Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders did combine for 267 yards on 22 catches, but neither scored and were locked down for the most part in Cover 1 man under.
Jones checked down a lot more than anticipated, and the longest allowed reception was 35 yards. Yes, that’s a fairly big play. Nonetheless, that occurred only one time as opposed to Oklahoma’s norm, which can expectedly be significantly more.
Zeke Motta and Co. zoned well over the top and walled off the outside to a T. As a result, the front seven was given that little extra time to apply pressure and it eventually forced a major turnover.
Kicker Kyle Brindza went 3-of-4 kicking field goals on the day, and although his 35-yard whiff created some first-half drama, the Irish never lost faith in the freshman.
And trusting the youngster paid off because he connected to two important kicks from 44 and 46 yards out in the final quarter. It’s that kind of ice Notre Dame needs its kicker to have in his veins because now experience in crucial situations has been gained.
As for punting, Ben Turk enjoyed another strong performance with four attempts for 163 yards and a long of 51. Turk’s impact is much more significant than known, as his leg prevented Oklahoma from gaining a field position advantage and added pressure to Landry Jones and Bob Stoops’ offense.
Now, there certainly were not any big returns off kicks or punts either. What‘s important is that there were no fumbles on kickoff or punt returns. Notre Dame was flawless here, which made the Irish turnover-free throughout.
Brian Kelly could not have coached a better game. If the Irish manage to run the table, the approach and execution of play-calling of this game will be looked at as Kelly’s ninth symphony.
He conducted Notre Dame’s game and field position situations throughout flawlessly, and the players orchestrated quite well. Everett Golson was never put in a bad position against a specific defensive look, and Kelly never got away from the running game.
Investing in that area set up the big play, which Notre Dame got in the fourth quarter. With the defense virtually suffocating Oklahoma in coverage and stifling the run, Kelly and his coaching staff shut down one of college football’s most complete teams.
The man outcoached Bob Stoops in Norman, which is nearly impossible to achieve unless you're Bill Snyder.
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