Wow. It’s the morning after and I am honestly still having trouble putting into words my thoughts about this game, this team, and this season. It has been just about 19 years since I remember feeling this good about a Notre Dame team and feeling this good after a Notre Dame win. If I had to describe last night’s win in a word though, I think I’d have to go with “awesome”.
This team is just fun to watch and after some awful years of football, this team has made Saturdays fun again. We’ll have much, much more on this game, but here are some initial thoughts as I am rewatching the game with a grin from ear to ear this morning.
- Everett Golson is growing up in front of us. Golson took a huge step forward in his development last night just by playing smart and playing within himself and this offense. Golson protected the football, made plays with his legs, and was very smart in his decision making. He took what a very good defense gave him and made plays when they were there.
- Really, really liked seeing Golson running the football on the designed runs. Great play calling by Chuck Martin and Brian Kelly.
- Great play by Tommy Rees converted a 3rd and 7 when coming off the bench when Golson temporarily got knocked out of the game. Rees has been just about the perfect backup quarterback for Notre Dame this year.
- Hats off to the offensive line. Golson had plenty of time to pass most of the night, they cut down on the penalties, and gave the backs some room to run throughout the game. The line has been up and down at times this year, but they were fantastic last night.
- The wide receivers are starting to establish themselves. TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels are without question the top two receivers on this team right now and both attacked the ball and didn’t wait for it to come to them last night. Jones had a very solid night with 5 catches for 55 yards and Daniels added 2 of his own for 36 yards. Not eye popping numbers, but both are developing some chemistry with Golson and improving week to week.
- Speaking of wide receivers, it was awesome to see Chris Brown get open deep and haul in a long bomb – especially since a certain blogger wrote on Friday that Notre Dame needed Brown to do just that to win. Brown can really help open things up for this offense if he can keep hauling in passes like that each week. Notre Dame has been missing that deep threat so far this year.
- I still think Cierre Wood is the best running back on this team, but Theo Riddick has been churning out a lot of tough yards for this offense over the last few weeks. Riddick has been making some flat out silly cuts lately too – he doesn’t have Wood’s speed, but he has been showing some moves in the open field.
- Notre Dame was very good on 3rd down last night converting 7 of 15 attempts. That is a great success rate on the road against a team like Oklahoma and is a good indicator of the development of Golson and the offense as a whole.
- Oklahoma opponents were averaging just under 140 yards a game on the ground and Notre Dame wracked up 215 rushing yards on them. Notre Dame has now run for 200+ yards four times this year and has done so in back to back weeks.
- Manti Te’o punched his ticket to New York City for the Heisman trophy presentation. He still faces a tough task to win it since defense players so rarely win it, but with 11 tackles, a sack, and a game clinching interception against a top 10 opponent, on the road, Te’o is going to be in the conversation until the end.
- Kei’Varae Russell had another very solid game. The true freshman, converted wide receiver has played about as good as anyone could have hoped for and more than held his own against the Oklahoma receivers that were supposed to expose the young Irish secondary. Russell has almost been an excellent tackler this year and those skills were on display again last night with a 9 tackle performance.
- Bennett Jackson was pretty good as well. Jackson picked up 8 tackles and didn’t let anyone get behind him.
- Great push up front by the defensive line. Notre Dame didn’t blitz as much as I thought, but the push from the defensive line was enough to prevent Landry Jones from sitting in the pocket and trying to pick apart the defense for the most part. There were times when Jones and the Sooner offense were clicking, but the line did its job.
- Notre Dame’s depth up front was on display last night with Oklahoma trying to run a hurry up offense. The Irish reserve defensive line more than held their own. Kona Schwenke in particular was very strong in the trenches last night.
- Ishaq Williams was more active this week than he has been recently. After a great season opening performance against Navy Williams was a little silent, but he has been in the thick of the action. Pretty soon the light switch is going to turn on for #11 and he is going to be very fun to watch.
- Excellent job by the Irish defense getting off the field on the 3rd down. Notre Dame held Oklahoma to just 4 of 14 conversions.
- For all of the talk about how Notre Dame hadn’t faced an offense like Oklahoma’s yet that could run at them, the Irish held the Sooners to a paltry 15 yards rushing on 24 attempts. That is less than a yard per carry. Blake Bell did register the first rushing touchdown of the season on the Notre Dame defense but on the night he gained just 6 yards on 4 attempts. Five Notre Dame opponents have now run for less than 100 yards on the Irish this season.
- Loved the defensive game plan. Oklahoma moved the ball well through the air, but Notre Dame never let the Sooner receivers get behind them and Oklahoma wasn’t able to put points on the board without the downfield passing game working.
- Kyle Brindza had what could have been a very costly miss from just 35 yards, but he more than redeemed himself with a pair of huge field goals in the 4th quarter from 44 and 46 yards.
- Pretty solid day punting for Ben Turk including a 51 yarder .
- Still not much going in the return department. Davonte Neal did make one costly mistake by letting one punt sail past him that cost Notre Dame a good 10 or so yards in field position.