The Moore American

September 25, 2013

Loss to Irish still leaves bad taste in Sooners mouths

By John Shinn
The Moore American

MOORE — Watching a game from 11 months ago isnt typically high on the game-week preparation list. What teams have done this season is the usual viewing choice.

Oklahomas coaches only made their team watch a little bit of last seasons 30-13 loss to Notre Dame. But it was the last 15 minutes of that game that was must-see viewing. It doesnt take a football genius to see it was the fourth quarter where the Fighting Irish imposed their will on the Sooners.

“They really kind of dominated us in the fourth quarter last year,” OU cornerback Aaron Colvin said.

Dominate is good way to describe a scenario where the Sooners were outscored 17-0 over the final six minutes, turning a tight game into a very convincing Notre Dame victory.

It was one of three OU losses last season, but it truly was an eye-opener in terms of where it was a football team. It wasnt tough enough to truly compete with college footballs best.

The 14th-ranked Sooners (3-0) get another shot at No. 22 Notre Dame (3-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

OU has resisted all urges to call this a statement game. After all theres 88 percent of Big 12 Conference schedule that will come after it. Its just the next game on the calendar.

However, this game will serve as a benchmark for all the changes the Sooners have made in the offseason.

The alterations have mainly been at the line of scrimmage. The Sooners were outmuscled on both sides of it last October at Owen Field. They only rushed for 15 yards and gave 215 on the ground.

OU coach Bob Stoops said Monday at his weekly press conference the outcome of the Notre Dame game alone didnt force the Sooners revitalizing its run game.

“In that game, we did throw it well. We did take advantage of what they were doing and move the ball throwing it,” he said. “But again, as much as anything, that games what, 10-6, going into the fourth quarter and ends up 13-13, and then they made every play after that, whether it be the interception, the long pass, whatever. Anyway, well need to run it better.”

Theyll need to because throwing short passes only gets an offense so far against quality opponents. If you want to score touchdowns in the red zone, it requires the toughness to impose your will.

Offensively, OU couldnt do it last season. It got in the red zone four times, scoring one touchdown and kicking two field goals. Notre Dame did impose its will. Both of those fourth-quarter touchdown were red zone scores.

“The most important thing from last year was who controlled the line of scrimmage and that was obviously them,” OU center Gabe Ikard said. “We didnt rush the ball well at all. They started to wear us out. Its one of those things where thats our focus now is establishing and controlling the line of scrimmage.”

Some of the personnel from last years game have changed. Both teams have different quarterbacks. Notre Dame no longer has Mantei Teo at middle linebacker.

But the difference between winning and losing will likely come down to which team wins in the trenches Saturday. The Sooners believe they are better on both sides of the ball in that area this season.

Theyll know for sure Saturday.