Oklahoma took advantage of three Notre Dame turnovers, ran the ball with success, and made key passing plays when needed to beat the Fighting Irish 35-21 in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday.
Oklahoma’s defense came up with two big plays to give the Sooners an early 14-0 lead, before the Fighting Irish came back to cut the Sooner lead in half by the end of the first quarter.
Corey Nelson picked off a Tommy Rees pass when Eric Striker hit Rees just as he threw the ball, then Nelson raced 24 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 OU lead.
On Notre Dame’s next possession, Rees was intercepted by Frank Shannon, who returned it to the Irish 32.
From there, OU marched to a second touchdown, with Damien Williams scoring on an 11-yard run to make it 14-0 Sooners.
Notre Dame’s offense finally settled in later in the quarter, as they marched 80 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive on a six-yard touchdown pass from Rees to T.J. Jones
to cut Oklahoma’s lead to 14-7.
The score remained 14-7 until late in the second quarter when OU picked off Rees for the third time, with Julian Wilson intercepting Rees off a tipped pass by
Rees was just 9 of 24 passing with three interceptions.
OU then went 88 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bell to Lacolton Bester with just 42 seconds left in the half, giving OU the 21-7 halftime lead.
On Notre Dame’s first snap of the second half, George Atkinson went untouched 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the Sooner lead to 21-14.
Atkinson finished with 148 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Oklahoma answered with a pair of Michael Hunnicutt field goals in the third quarter.
With OU leading 24-14, quarterback Blake Bell had to leave the game and went to the lockerroom with an apparent left leg injury, which appeared to a case of cramping.
Trevor Knight came in to play for Bell and carried the ball for a gain of 30 yards that helped set up Hunnicutt’s second field goal to make it 27-14.
Bell returned to the OU bench late in the third quarter, and came back to play in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame drew to within one score early in the fourth when Rees passed to Troy Niklas for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 27-21 Sooners.
Oklahoma put the game away on the enusing possession, as Bell converted a 3rd and 6 with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard.
The two connected again for a two-point conversion to make it 35-21 Oklahoma with nearly 12 and a half minutes left in the game.
Bell completed 22 of 30 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns, with Shepard catching five passes for 83 yards.
OU’s running game milked the clock the rest of the period, and the Sooners held on to beat the Irish for just the second time in series history in 11 meetings.
It was Oklahoma’s first win over Notre Dame since a 40-0 shutout of the Irish in 1956.
OU did not commit a turnover, and had just four penalties.
Time of possession was heavily in the Sooners’ favor as well, with nearly 36 minutes to just over 24 for Notre Dame.
The Sooners improve to 4-0 and will return to Big 12 play next Saturday at home against TCU.