Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame: Live Game Grades and Analysis for the Irish

Matt SmithCorrespondent IIISeptember 28, 2013

Sep 28, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) celebrates with offensive lineman Kyle Marrs (78) after a two point conversion in the fourth quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Oklahoma won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21, Final

No. 14 Oklahoma defeated No. 22 Notre Dame, 35-21. The loss drops the Irish to 3-2 on the season heading into their Shamrock Series game next week against Arizona State in Arlington, Tex. Check out final grades and analysis below.

Postgame Analysis for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Pass Offense: While the Irish did not turn the ball over in the second half, Notre Dame could not overcome three first-half interceptions. Notre Dame did not have a completion longer than 14 yards until Troy Niklas' 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tommy Rees' starting job is in no danger, but things have to change for Notre Dame to remain in BCS bowl contention.

Run Offense: Rushing for 220 yards on 29 carries sounds great, but when you have a minus-three turnover margin, it doesn't matter. Notre Dame had to abandon the running game late and couldn't capitalize on its one clear advantage. George Atkinson III's 148-yard performance could be a sign of a turnaround for the junior in the second half of the season.

Pass Defense: The Irish avoided chunk plays outside of Blake Bell's two touchdown passes, but the lack of pressure on Blake Bell continued a season-long trend of being unable to generate sacks. Notre Dame countered Oklahoma's speed advantage until Sterling Shepard's 54-yard touchdown that sealed the victory.

Run Defense: 212 yards looks pretty bad, but Oklahoma did carry it 42 times. The short-yardage defense was outstanding, holding the Sooners to two field goals in the third quarter to keep the team in the game. Defensive line depth, thought to be a problem coming into the season, is exactly that.

Special Teams: The booming leg of Oklahoma's Nick Hodgson rendered Atkinson III a non-factor in the kick return game. Kyle Brindza had one shaky punt, but a personal foul penalty made up for the lost yardage. The Irish did not attempt a field goal.

Coaching: It would have been interesting to see how much Andrew Hendrix would have been used in the second half had the Irish not been playing from behind the entire afternoon. The lack of a downfield passing game continues to be an issue, but with three turnovers, it's hard to pin too much of the blame on the coaches.

Sep 28, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Damien Williams (26) scores a touchdown against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

First-Half Analysis for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Pass Offense: To say Tommy Rees is struggling doesn't do his first-half performance justice. Rees threw three interceptions, and another low-percentage was throw was dropped by a Sooners defender. He also missed a wide-open Tarean Folston on a screen pass. The only highlight was a touchdown pass from Rees to TJ Jones.

Run Offense: The Irish rushing attack has had its best day of the season, amassing 112 yards in the first half. Tarean Folston's 36-yard gallop down the sideline helped set up Notre Dame's only score of the half. Andrew Hendrix's involvement has added a new element to the Irish offense.

Pass Defense: Bennett Jackson had a difficult half, with a pass interference penalty and a touchdown pass thrown against him, but the Irish are again limiting the Sooners' big plays. The pass rush has been non-existent, not helped by the fact that Notre Dame is playing without starting defensive end Sheldon Day for the second consecutive week.

Run Defense: Damien Williams danced through the Irish defense for Oklahoma's second touchdown, but overall it was a respectable performance for the Irish front against a deep Sooners backfield. Oklahoma failed multiple times to convert short-yardage situations. Tackling has been sound.

Special Teams: George Atkinson III has only been able to return one of Oklahoma's four kickoffs, and both of the Sooners' punts went for touchbacks. Both Kyle Brindza and Alex Wulfeck have pinned Oklahoma inside its own 20-yard line.

Coaching: The Hendrix wrinkle has proven successful, as the Irish have been very effective on the ground. It's hard to blame the coaches for any of the three turnovers. Halftime adjustments must be made if Notre Dame hopes to get back into the game, however, particularly in regard to generating some semblance of a pass rush.