It was the biggest win of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame and the biggest win for the Irish in the BCS era last week. ND went into Norman, Oklahoma, and racked up an impressive win over the Sooners, who were ranked eighth at the time, and making a move back to the national title race spotlight.
The win moved the Irish up in the standings and also was the signature win for Kelly. It also set up the Irish to flirt with the chance of finishing 12-0, but there are four hurdles ahead, three of them that remind me of the BYU game three weeks ago. The Irish face Pittsburgh today, travel to Boston College next week, before finishing out the home schedule on Nov. 17 with Wake Forest. Three teams that the Irish will be heavy favorites to defeat, but three teams, especially Pitt and BC, that could ruin the Irish quest for a top BCS game and their best record in a decade.
Last week the Irish offense showed signs of hitting high gear and quarterback Everett Golson also showed signs that he is settling in and could be a star for the Irish for the next four years.
ND's defense played another dominating game despite giving up its first rushing touchdown in 41 quarters. It came in the fourth quarter when the Sooners scored to tie it at 13-13. But when the Irish needed to move the football when the momentum seemed to shift to the Sooners late, Golson got the job down.
With the win the Irish move to 8-0 and their best start since 2002. Like I said, there are four games left, including the regular season finale at always tough Southern California on Nov. 24. But that is a long, long way off, first ND must deal with Pitt today, BC and Wake Forest.
More on the game later.
Pitt enteres the game at 4-4 but has been finding its offense the last few weeks. The Panthers started out slow with losses to Youngtown State, 31-17, and Cincinnati, 34-10, in the first two games. Pitt recovered with a win over Virginia Tech, 35-17, and then Gardner-Webb, a division two team, 55-10. Then there were back-to-back losses to Syracuse, 14-13, and Louisville, 45-35. However, Pitt is on a roll with wins the last two weeks, beating Buffalo, 20-6, and Temple, 47-17.
Pitt is led by QB Tino Sunseri, who had a good game against the Irish last year. This year he has completed 162 of 234 passes with only two interceptions, and 13 touchdowns. Top receiver is Devin Street with 50 catches for 695 yards and four scores. Top rushers are Ray Graham, who has run 134 times for 630 yards and seven scores, and Rushel Shell, 87-457-and four. Graham also had a good game last year against the Irish.
ND leads the series, 46-20-1. ND won at Pitt last year, 15-12, and has won two in a row after losing two in a row to Pitt. In all four games winning margins were four points or less.
The game will be televised nationally by NBC-TV with a 3:40 p.m. kickoff.
IRISH NOTES: Golson finshed the game 13 of 25 passing for 177 yards and rushed 11 times for 64 yards and committed no turnovers. His rushing ability is starting to pay dividends for the Irish. Other game stats had Theo Riddick rushing 19 times for 74 yards and a TD and Cierre Wood seven carries for 74 yards inclduing the first TD of the game a 62 yard scamper up the midde. TJ Jones had five catches for 55 yards and Tyler Eifert three for 22. Defensively Mante Te'o again led the team with 11 tackles....ND dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Irish outrushed the Sooners, 215-15....It was the first time ND visited Norman since the 1966 national championship season....The 30-13 win was even more impressive considering Oklahoma was an 11-point favorite....The Oklahoma game was the 90th in ND history when both teams were ranked in the top 10. ND has a 50-34-5 record in those games....Coming into the game Kelly was a combined 28-4 in his third season at his last three coaching stops, with 21 straight wins in season three. His other stops were Cincinnati and Central Michigan....George Atkinson II didn't make the trip due to having the flu but was cleared to resume practice on Sunday. Kelly said about five or more players had flu-like problems the week prior to the game and has continued this week....When the Sooners kicked a field goal in the first quarter it marked the first time this season that ND did not score first....The series with Pitt may be ending soon. Because of the Irish joining the ACC and must schedule five games with ACC teams each year, Pitt is another school ND might not be able to play on a yearly basis....Senior defensive back Jamoris Slaughter, whose season ended when he tore his Achillies tendon in the Michican State game, has applied for a fifth year to the NCAA. Another junior defensive back, Austin Collinsworth, out for the year with a shoulder injury, was cleared to resume lifting weights but will not play this year, coach Kelly said. Collinsworth is eligible for a redshirt year....Today's game reminds me of the BYU contest. The Irish must be very careful not only today but the next three games because all three opponents will be coming into the game as heavy underdogs. ND is favored by 16 today. These types of games can result in a major upset. Kelly has preached all season for the team to take one game at a time. So far they have. With an 8-0 record the Irish players should be focused today and for the next four weeks. In my preseason picks I have ND winning today. They should win, but covering the 16 points may be a problem. The last four games in this series have all be very close.