By Clay Horning
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – The magic was back, now it’s gone.
That’s the Irish for you. That’s Notre Dame and Oklahoma. That’s history, fulfilled.
If I’m Joe Castiglione, I try to line up another home and home series with Notre Dame before the Sooners even visit South Bend next season. If I’m the Sooner athletic director, I try to schedule this game whenever possible, wherever possible, as often as possible.
Owen Field was electric, maybe like never before. It’s a great game for college football. And it’s going to take more than one victory over the Irish, should OU ever get it, to wash the taste out of the Sooner Nation’s collective mouth.
The Irish beat the Sooners 30-13 — 30-13! — Saturday night at Owen Field.
It was a great football game and it was an excruciating and awful and horrid football game.
It was everything every game has ever been for the Sooners when these programs get together; all but the one OU won, 40-0, in 1956, against the most forgettable Notre Dame team of them all (even though Paul Hornung won the Heisman on that two-win squad; and people wonder why there’s so much Ire for the Irish).
Sign it up, it ought to be easy.
If there’s one team Notre Dame should believe it can beat, it’s OU. And the Sooners need to beat the Irish, and more than once, to give their souls peace – believe it.
Believe this, too.
Notre Dame’s offense isn’t nearly as scary as OU’s. And it’s defense isn’t a whole lot better than OU’s. For much of the game, the Sooners went up and down the field on the Irish.
But here’s the thing: the day Notre Dame plays OU (and the day it plays Purdue and Michigan and Stanford and BYU) its offense and defense are both better than OU’s (and Purdue’s and Michigan State’s and Stanford’s and BYU’s).
In 2000, the Sooners were like that. The were like that against Oklahoma State (12-7), Kansas State (27-24) and Florida State (13-2) down the national championship stretch. They’d quit being scary, but they never quit winning.
Maybe that’s the Irish this season.
We’ll wait for them to lose all season, because rare is the day they put anybody away early, their margin for error is thin, they can’t keep doing it like this forever, unless they can.
Saturday, it looked like they might.
Josh Heupel, co-offensive coordinator and play-caller just didn’t have the touch.
He’d have everything going OU’s way and then he’d run it into the line on first down for no gain, or on second down for no gain after a first-down incompletion. He’d have the Irish defense on the run, and then he’d give all the momentum back. He’d had three good weeks, but he needed to be better against the nation’s fifth-ranked team.
And then, when OU finally found the end zone, when Blake Bell powered in from a yard out, tying it 13-13, the Irish responded with a 50-yard strike two plays later, Everett Golson to Chris Brown, and a 1-yard touchdown dive from Golson five plays after that.
Like it didn’t matter what Heupel might have done, because the Irish were just going to make all the plays. It’s what they do, you know, especially when sharing the stadium with OU, and maybe, this season, against everybody.
It was OU’s defensive coordinator with the best line of the night.
“In these two losses, we just didn’t play good enough against good football teams,” Mike Stoops said.
Probably, he was only talking about his unit, one that’s given up 31 fourth-quarter points in two Sooner downfalls. But it cuts both ways.
OU never looked like itself. Not really and not on either side of the ball. Not against Notre Dame, which got one turnover from the Sooners (not three like Kansas State) yet hardly needed it.
Bob Stoops said he didn’t want to hear about or talk about moral victories or anything like that and still, he had to point out how close a game it really was, much closer than the final 17-point spread.
“We played a really good football team and we’re there with 8 1/2 minutes to go with a good chance to win the game,” he said.
That’s when it was 13-13 and it may have seemed that way. And if OU had done everything right, it may have been that way or much better. The Sooners moved the ball. They defended most of the game.
But it wasn’t that way.
OU may not lose again.
The Sooners have already proven how capable they can be. But not against Notre Dame. Historically, and, sure enough, Saturday night, too.
The Irish own the Sooners – again.
– Clay Horning is the sports editor for the Norman Transcript.