By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Phoenix staff reports
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell said he’d never experienced a cramp before Saturday. It’s what had him in terror when the pain shot through his left calf after an 11-yard run with about six minutes left in the third quarter.
“I just wanted to stop cramping. I was cramping the whole time,” Bell said.
The cramp forced Bell to go to the locker room, where he received fluids intravenously. Trevor Knight entered for six plays and drove the 54 yards, setting up Michael Hunnicutt’s 19-yard field goal.
Still, OU’s coaching staff was ticked Bell never said anything about the cramps at halftime.
“(Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel) was so mad like, really, you’re cramming? He said he’s never had a cramp,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “So obviously, it’s something we have to be more aware of moving on down the road here. Otherwise we could have gassed him up at halftime. For whatever reason, we didn’t. He didn’t tell anyone and we didn’t know it was an issue or we would have. We do that, you know.
“When guys are starting to have those feelings at halftime, we’ll load them up here and there. Not a bunch, but when the ones who need it, and we didn’t do it. That was an error on our part.”
One of the biggest plays of the fourth quarter was the targeting call on Notre Dame linebacker Ben Councell for a hit on OU running back Brennan Clay.
Notre Dame had a chance to get the ball back down 14 with decent field position and about 10 minutes to go. Instead, the Sooners got to run off another two minutes of clock.
The oddity was Clay, who spent about one minute on the turf after the hit, returned the game.
“I was probably the hardest hit I’ve taken since my freshman year, but you just have to shake it off,” Clay said. “It’s football.”
Clay was checked out by OU’s medical staff. Seven of his team-high 14 carries came after the hit.
Saturday’s game was the last scheduled for the Sooners and Fighting Irish. And with the Fighting Irish having to play at least five games with ACC opponents each year beginning next season and OU having a BCS conference foe booked through the next eight seasons, another home-and-home series would be pretty far off.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the series was good for his program.
“Coach Stoops and his staff, we have a lot of respect for them. The way they compete, a class organization and a team and a program that we really enjoyed competing against,” he said. “It’s a program that we really enjoyed the home-and-home with them.”
Stoops downplayed any significance last season’s 30-13 loss to the Irish had on Saturday’s game.
“To me, all you’re talking about is revenge you’re not giving the other team enough respect for coming in and beating you. That’s something you say how could they beat us? You know why they beat us a year ago? They beat about everybody until the last game. So we respected that,” he said. “There wasn’t any talk of revenge. It was about what are some of the things we did wrong a year ago that we can be better at and how can we finish the game better?”
Answering that question is something OU has done pretty well lately. It has won its last nine games against teams that beat OU in the previous meeting. The last team to beat the Sooners in back-to-back contests was Texas in 2008 and 2009.
Need for improvement
One source of irritation for OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was the 220 rushing yards Notre Dame picked up.
“They rushed the ball. They had to rush it close to 30-35 times. And then they were down in the fourth quarter and rushed it more. Through the first three quarters, they rushed more than they threw it,” he said. “They had success running in their bigger sets. It’s something we have to get better at. I didn’t feel comfortable all night in those sets.”
OU played the entire game in a three-man defensive front. If it wasn’t going to use a four-man front against Notre Dame, it’s doubtful OU will use one the rest of the regular season.