As expected Oklahoma proved superior to Notre Dame in their clash at South Bend but the Irish have only themselves to blame for the 35 21 loss.
Interceptions on the first two drives put Notre Dame in a hole that the Oklahoma Sooners weren’t going to let them out of. The loss leaves Notre Dame with a tough road to get back to a BCS bowl game while Oklahoma took another step forward in their perfect season start.
Notre Dame’s troubles started with Tommy Rees and the passing game that simply couldn’t get it done against a solid Sooner defense. Both of the early interceptions led to Oklahoma touchdowns and left the Irish down 14-points only three minutes into the game. A mistake in route running led to a third interception for Rees who ended up with 104-yards completing just nine of his 24-pass attempts. Backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix checked into the game a few times but it seemed to be part of the game plan and not in response to Rees’ play.
NBC reported that Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly defended his quarterback saying, “We don’t want to put this whole thing on Tommy. It’s everybody. We always go back to the quarterback around here. But this is about eleven players.”
Despite the passing issues, the Irish managed to keep it close with the running game and defense. Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III finally showed up and had a huge day rushing for 148-yards including an 80-yard touchdown. When he’s playing well his speed and agility adds a much needed dimension to the offense. Atkinson hasn’t performed up to his potential but will likely start to emerge as the number one guy for the Irish after Saturday’s performance.
The defense played pretty well and kept Notre Dame within reach. The Sooners were able to run the ball successfully throughout the game but never got too far ahead. Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell didn’t play as well as last week but made plays when necessary to win the game. Unfortunately, when the opportunity for a big defensive stop came up, Oklahoma was able to turn a short slant into a game sealing touchdown. The final score was 35-21.
The turnovers proved to be the difference in the game. There’s very few teams that could come back from three interceptions against an opponent as good as Oklahoma. The Irish have to keep their heads up and learn from this game. The loss doesn’t kill the season but Notre Dame has to play good football or else they’ll end up a disappointment. Stanford and Southern California are still ahead on Notre Dame’s schedule and could easily bring two more losses. The offense has to build on the running game and figure how make things easier on Tommy Rees. The defense has to stay motivated and keep getting better.
Brian Kelly opted not to weigh in on what this loss could mean for the Notre Dame saying, “I don’t really care about that stuff. That’s for you guys to talk about. I’ve got a football team here we’re trying to develop and work with.”