Oklahoma Review: Dominant 4th Quarter Keeps Irish Perfect

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Breaking down Notre Dame's 30-13 win over Oklahoma to keep their perfect record in tact.

Alstein summed it up best with a succinct email sent last night before the clock struck midnight.

Welp. ND might be pretty good guys.

Indeed.

Let's break down the unit's in this historic and possibly program changing win.

Defensive Line

It didn't feel like a great performance by the line and Oklahoma's offensive line did a great job most of the night in protecting Landry Jones. Still, they held their gaps and shut down the run all night long. With help from the linebackers coming up to make stops the defense up front held OU to rushes of 5, 0, -1, 1, 3, 4, 3, 4, 0, 3, 2, 5, 1, 1, 7, -2, 5, 4, 3, 1, and 1 yards on the night.

That's a lot of discipline right there.

They didn't exactly get after Jones, and there were a ton of 3-man rushes only, but the pressure was more than just the official 1 quarterback hurry. Both starting ends in Lewis-Moore and Tuitt finished with a combined 4 tackles, but the latter especially had a couple hurries. Nix was doing his thing inside all night commanding double teams and also being disruptive---he's the kind of guy who allows you to rush 3 and play great run defense.

The backups yet again saw a lot of time.

Linebackers

All in all a solid game from the linebackers. Oklahoma was able to find that zone behind them on some pass completions but they did a good job the rest of the night keeping everything in front of them and making tackles.

The trio of Spond, Fox, and Calabrese played pretty well combining for 15 tackles. I'm especially surprised by Carlo's play this year and he added a tackle for loss on Saturday night. There were a couple mistakes by these guys but they are the epitome of the bend but don't break defense.

I haven't seen the snap count but this had to be the most Ishaq Williams has played throughout his entire career. And he made some plays! He nearly tackled the Belldozer on the fateful touchdown---a play we've seen often in Williams' short career---but he played pretty well and finished with 3 tackles and 1 great hit on a tackle for loss.

With so much Ishaq out there it seemed like Shembo didn't play his usual starter minutes. Prince still ended up with a late sack and the only official quarterback hurry of the game for Notre Dame.

20121027_mje_sc5_280

Nom, nom, nom. Matt Cashore/US Presswire

As I mentioned in the post-game recap, I think Manti Te'o has officially sealed his fate with an invitation to the Heisman ceremony. 11 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 interception, and 1 sack in the biggest game of his career is Heisman worthy. He's likely to put up very solid numbers over the next month of the season too.

Secondary

Oklahoma didn't complete a deep pass until the cocky Kenny Stills came down with one in the last minute, so that's a pretty big win for this "weak" secondary.

The safeties had pretty quiet games (7 combined tackles) but they weren't challenged deep and most of the stuff was cleaned up inside by the linebackers.

Both Bennett Jackson and especially KeiVarae Russell played lights out on Saturday night. Sure the soft coverage was maddening at times but we've learned to live with it, right? And when these guys can come up and stop 6 yard gains from turning into 15 yard gains, you know they're good. They combined for 17 tackles and Russell was the best player on the field outside of Te'o, making a couple of huge tackles in space.

Offensive Line

Given the opponent and pressure this was probably the line's best game of the season. The protection was great all night long and they opened enough holes to gain over 200 yards on the ground.

They only gave up one sack on a broken play in which Golson was tracked down for a loss. Officially the Sooners were credited with 7 quarterback hurries but whoever was keeping that stat was probably being a little generous for the home team and it's also a product of Golson usually trying to buy more time than it is poor blocking on the offensive line's part.

This group has to be licking their lips with the next three opponents.

Tight End

Not much on the night from Hercules and Koyack besides some blocking, but Tyler Eifert came up with two clutch catches among his 3 on the night. The first was the pass from Rees that kept a drive alive, and the second a circus-like grab near the goal line that set up the Golson rushing touchdown.

The latter catch was one of the more impressive displays of concentration I've seen from Eifert.

Wide Receivers

TJ Jones had what I believe was his first true drop of the season, it just had to be with his stickum fingers in 2012, but he otherwise kept his clutch-style in tact with a solid 5 receptions for 55 yards 20121027_mse_se2_278

.Jones climbing the ladder. Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

Daniels got back on track with a couple grabs for 36 yards.

After what seemed like a month-long absence we finally saw Toma on a crossing route or two. More of that please!

Praise Jesus for Golson finally connecting with Chris Brown on a deep playaction pass. What a thing of beauty that was for a redshirt freshman to throw that ball for a true freshman's first career catch.

Running Backs

It's still tempting to complain about the lack of carries for Cierre Wood. He finishes the game with the same rushing yards as Riddick on 12 fewer carries. I know Wood had a 62-yard touchdown run, and just 10 more yards on his remaining 6 carries, but still. Take away Riddick's nice 15-yard touchdown and he put up 59 yards on 18 carries.

I'll concede Riddick's versatility and that Kelly likes him more in the passing game and with certain matchups, but it seems like we're trading an awful lot of pedestrian runs for a lack of homerun ability.

Nevertheless, it was a very strong game for both players especially without George Atkinson in the lineup. I won't complain too loudly about Riddick because he did play well, although it would have been nice to see him catch that ball late in the game.

Quarterback

Just another quick and successful day at the office for Tommy Rees. Golson gets the wind knocked out of him. Rees put the helmet on. Sees single coverage on Eifert. Calls audible. Quick decision. Pass complete. Fist bumps.

We're just scratching the surface with Everett Golson. He's still a little careless with the ball while running, sometimes inpatient in the pocket, and misses a wide open receiver from time to time. That's to be expected for a young player but even the most fervent members of the EG Fan Club might not have saw this performance coming.

Looking back I may have been a little unrealistic in thinking Golson could throw 30 touchdowns and be in the running for freshman All-American status this year. But even I didn't think he could put together the complete and poised performance like he did on the road against Oklahoma.

I really hope we can see this Golson the rest of the year because the offense will be tough to beat if we do. He took care of the ball, fit the ball in some tight windows, threw well on the run, connected on a beautiful deep pass, and added a huge dimension with his running abilities.

Special Teams

Aside from the final kickoff of the game, the coverage units were strong again.

I'll take what we got out of Ben Turk in the punting game.

That missed field goal by Brindza felt like it was going to haunt the team, but he nailed 2 more down the stretch and 3 out of 4 overall. I'll take that output too.

It was a pretty good job by Cam McDaniel in the kick return game. He didn't have good blocking but at least made one or two guys miss on most returns. He also laid the wood on a kick return, and was given the game ball by coach Kelly.

Final Thoughts

  • I've seen a lot of people give their play of the game and frankly there could have been many on the night. I'd probably go with that playaction designed run by Golson deep in Irish territory where he brought the ball out to the 24 yard line. That drive ended with a field goal and put the Irish up 13-6 and signaled to me that Notre Dame wasn't going to lay down and turtle on offense.
  • Brian Kelly now has a .705 winning percentage as head coach at Notre Dame.
  • So many great things happened on the 50-yard bomb from Golson to Chris Brown. First, Riddick does a nice job stepping in the way of the Sooner defender coming off the edge. Second, Golson finally stepped up into the pocket to avoid some pressure. Lastly, He Who Must Not Be Slept On put the ball right on the money to Brown.
  • Don't forget, Golson JUST missed Brown on another deep ball early in the game as well.
  • The early returns from visitors in Norman have been ridiculously positive. A lot of friendly and knowledgeable people, and a great atmosphere for a big game. I hope Notre Dame can sign another series in the future with Oklahoma.
  • According to BGI, the Sooners set a school-record for attendance last night with 86,031 people on hand. They also pointed out it was the largest crowd to watch a sporting event of any kind in the history of the state of Oklahoma.
  • Interesting note that Manti Te'o did not have a tackle in the second half.
  • If Motta doesn't tip the ball in the late 1st quarter, Jackson likely has an easy interception instead of dropping it.
  • Daniel Smith saw some action as a blocking wide receiver.
  • Prince Shembo spent a lot of time standing up as an outside linebacker in a role very similar to the Dog linebacker spot. There were a lot of different looks on defense but when Oklahoma spread things out with 4-wide it appeared the Irish kept Te'o and Fox/Carlo in the middle, with Spond and Shembo covering the slot receivers. Ishaq Williams also filled in a ton for Shembo in this role.

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