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Irish faces stiff test with Sooners

Published October 27. 2012 09:01AM

After shaking off a miserable performance in the first half, Notre Dame settle in in the second half last week and grounded up a 17-14 win over upset minded BYU.

It was a game many Irish fans felt was ripe for ND being upset. The Irish showed signs of a letdown from the hard-fought Stanford game the week before, and perhaps were looking ahead to tonight's Oklahoma game. But whatever head coach Brian Kelly told them at half time, or the players themselves told each other, it worked.

The only disappointment for me was that the Irish racked up a huge rushing yard advantage, 270-66, over BYU, held their offense in complete check for the second half, but only managed a three point victory.

In that second half the Irish committed to the run and only threw three passes in the two remaining quarters.

Theo Riddick had his best offensive day ever for the Irish. He ran for 143 yards on 15 rushes. ND's other fine runningbacks also did well. Cierre Wood had 114 yards on 18 carries, and George Atkinson II, five for 14 and a score.

Manti Te'o led the defense again with 10 tackles.

Tommy Rees started and played the entire game except for a brief relief appearance by Andrew Hendrix. It was the 18th career start for Rees. It was not his best, however, as he was only seven of 16 passing with one interception.

More on the game later.

Tonight the Irish face probably their stiffest test of the year. Entering at 7-0 is apparently not very impressive to the bookies. The Irish are 10 plus point underdogs for the game in Norman, Okla., where the Sooners are extremely tough to beat.

The Sooners enter the game 5-1 and have been on the rise in national rankings, eighth this week. The Sooners took a mini-dive in the national spotlight when they lost at home to Kansas State, 24-19, in the third game of the season. But since then Oklahoma has rolled to three straight and impressive wins, beating Texas Tech, 41-20; Texas, 63-21; and Kansas last week, 52-7. The other wins are over UTEP, 24-7; and Flordia A&M, 69-13.

The Sooners are led by Quarterback Landry Jones. He has completed 134 of 213 passes with only three interceptions and 1,653 yards. He has also tossed 12 touchdown passes. Top receivers are Denny Stills and Justine Brown.

But the Sooners also run the ball very well. They are led by Damie Williams, who has 572 yards on 74 carries, and seven TDs. Backing him up is Dom Whaley and Brennan Clay.

Oklahoma likes to run the ball first, but they surely can pass the ball too. The Sooners have 1,198 passing yards so far and 1,740 rushing yards. The balance is there.

The Sooners have an impressive home record and head coach Bob Stoops is 78-4 at home.

ND leads the series, 8-1. The last time the teams have played was in 1999, in South Bend, with ND winning, 34-30. ND has played in Norman four times and have won all four.

The game will be televised nationally by ABC-TV with a 8:12 p.m. kickoff.

IRISH NOTES:One notable in the series is the November 1957 game in Norman. ND ended Oklahoma's 47-game win streak in that game, winning 7-0....The Sooners' opponent last week Kansas is coached by former ND coach, Charlie Weis....ND extended its streak of not allowing a rushing touchdwon to 38 quarters, dating back to the Boston College game last year. The 66 points allowed through seven games this year is the fewest since 1976 season when that team gave up 64....In a straw poll by this week, concerning the Heisman Tropy, Manti Te'o finished second. Top vote getter was Kansas State QB Collin Klein, by a wide margin. Te'o also made the final cut to 12 for the Butkus Award, which goes to the top rated linebacker in the country....Other game stats of note. TE Tyler Eifert had four catches for 73 yards and a score while TJ Jones had two for 40. The TD catch by Eifert was his 10th of his career. The school record in 15 held by Ken MacAfee. Many feel Eifert is the key tonight if the Irish expect to win....A negative note is that kicker Kyle Brindza missed two of three field goal attempts at yards of 40 and 28. That is not good....The Irish are 58-7 at home all-time when ranked in the top five. ND is also 96-21-5 on the road when ranked in the top five....Irish are ranked 15th in rush defense nationally, eighth in pass-efficiency defense, sixth in total defense, and second in scoring defense....ND's turnover margin is 11th in the country while Oklahoma's is 43rd, which is worst among the top 10 teams....The Sooners are ranked fifth in the country in offense. This will be the best offense the Irish have faced this season and Notre Dame will be the best defense Oklahoma has faced this year....The winner of tonight's game will continue in the race for the national title, the loser will be knocked out of any consideration....This is probably the biggest game for ND in the last seven years....Another honor of Notre Dame. ND is the 2012 national champion for graduating its student-athletes in all sports for the sixth straight year. The NCAA GSR (Graduation Success Rate), has ND at 97 percent and tops among the 120 football-playing schools in the Football Bowl Subdivison. As a comparison, tonight's opponent has a 47 percent GSR....In my preseason picks I took Oklahoma and there is no reason to change that. The Sooners are at home and a 10-plus point favor over a team ranked three spots ahead of them. The bookies are not giving the Irish much respect. The problem for the Irish is the offense makes too many mistakes and fails to take advantage of red zone opportunities, like last week with BYU. It has been a good run and the Irish who could still finish at 11-1 or 10-2. Sorry fans, it doesn't look could for tonight.

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