Oklahoma finishes off the huge road win over Notre Dame. Final grades and analysis are below!
Notre Dame 21
Pass Offense: Blake Bell was replaced by Trevor Knight for a drive after leaving for the locker room with cramps, but he returned to finish off an impressive game. Bell completed 73 percent of his passes for 7.7 YPA and two TDs, including a 54-yard catch-and-run by Sterling Shepard (five catches, 83 yards) to put a nail in Notre Dame's coffin. The "Belldozer" appears to have cemented the starting role for the Sooners.
Run Offense: Brennan Clay came alive late with 62 second-half rushing yards, and Blake Bell continued to be a huge threat on the ground (12 rushes, 59 yards). Damien Williams finished off an 11-yard TD run, and Trevor Knight (who replaced the cramping Bell for a series) had a 30-yard run on his first snap.
Pass Defense: The pass defense for Oklahoma was phenomenal, as the Sooners racked up three picks (including one pick-six) and held QB Tommy Rees to a paltry 4.3 YPA and 37.5 percent completion rate. Even considering Notre Dame's offensive struggles, you can't ask for much more from your defense.
Run Defense: As good as the defense was against the pass, they were just as bad against the run, yielding 220 yards on the ground at a 7.6 YPC clip. George Atkinson III busted loose for an 80-yard TD romp early in the third, and Tarean Folston had a 36-yard run in the first half to set up Notre Dame's first touchdown.
Special Teams: Trey Franks had a 40-yard kick return down the right sideline and Michael Hunnicutt was perfect on two chip-shots.
Coaching: I talked about Bob Stoops' decision to go for it on fourth down as a negative in the first half, but it really speaks to the tone that Oklahoma intended to set in this game. Stoops' team was physical yet disciplined (just four penalties), and aggressive yet protective of the football (zero turnovers outside of the failed fourth-down conversion) in this game.
Stoops has his team, which was overlooked in preseason, on the fringe of the conversation for the national title after a huge win.
Pass Offense: QB Blake Bell and the Sooners lacked any impressive drives on their resume today until late in the half, when they marched down the field for a 10-play, 88-yard drive that was capped by a 26-yard TD pass from Bell to Lacoltan Bester. Overall, Bell wasn’t asked to do too much (despite a 75 percent completion rate, he averaged just 6.4 YPA), but he protected the football despite some accuracy issues throughout the half.
Run Offense: The explosive Brennan Clay hasn’t done much (three rushes, 15 yards), but Blake Bell has continued to make plays with his legs (5.7 YPC). Damien Williams busted loose for an 11-yard TD run and also added another 19-yard rush as the Sooners averaged an impressive 6.3 YPC on their 14 rushes.
Pass Defense: Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees had yielded just two picks all year coming into the game, but he had three in the half against an opportunistic and physical Sooners defense. All three turnovers resulted in Oklahoma touchdowns. The Fighting Irish passer did quarterback his team to one 10-play, 80-yard drive (capped by Rees’ lone touchdown pass), but otherwise he didn’t manage much—just 52 total yards on 6-of-13 passing.
Run Defense: The Sooners struggled a bit against the run in the first half, yielding 112 rushing yards, including a 36-yard rumble by Tarean Folston to set up Notre Dame’s only touchdown. George Atkinson III was the most consistently impressive for Notre Dame, with seven rushes for 37 yards. The Sooners will need to tighten up against the run in the second half and force Rees to try and make plays with his arm.
Special Teams: Michael Hunnicutt converted all three of his extra points, Jed Barnett averaged 47.5 yards per punt and Roy Finch had a single 24-yard return. Otherwise, there weren’t many game-changing events on special teams in the first half.
Coaching: Bob Stoops' decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 around midfield in the second quarter nearly backfired, as the Irish stuffed a Blake Bell rushing attempt and marched down into field-goal range. However, another Rees pick ended Notre Dame’s scoring bid before the Irish could make Oklahoma pay.
Otherwise, Stoop’s team played disciplined (just two penalties for 10 yards), turnover-free football and capitalized on three turnovers to demoralize the home crowd. That’s the mark of a well-coached team.