NORMAN, Okla. – Outside of Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly's wife, Paqui, no one was giving the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish a legitimate shot to knock off eighth-ranked Oklahoma on their home field on Saturday. But that is exactly what Kelly's team did in winning 30-13.
How did the Irish earn their biggest victory since beating third-ranked Michigan on the road seven years ago? Here is how:
Bend, but don't break
The Notre Dame defense was spectacular when it had to be and not so great when it didn't need to be.
“We structured the game plan to keep the points down,” Kelly said. “We we're willing to give up yardage in the passing game in order to keep the points down.”
The Irish did that certainly. Oklahoma threw for 364 yards.
Play smart, disciplined football
Notre Dame (8-0) did not have a turnover in the entire game and it committed just one penalty.
“In the second half, the focus was on physical and mental toughness,” Kelly said. “The team that would win this game would control it in that manner.”
Kelly absolutely wanted to score more points than the Sooners (5-2), however, that didn't mean that he envisioned scoring a lot of points against one of best defenses (15th) in the country.
“We are not, offensively, to a point where we can outscore a team like Oklahoma,” Kelly said.
The Irish accomplished this feat by running the ball successfully, which kept the Sooner offense off of the field.
Notre Dame outgained the hosts by 200 yards (215 to 15) on the ground, and though Kelly has never been a big advocate of the importance of this statistic, his team won the time of possession (32:28 to 27:32).
Coming of age
Notre Dame's young quarterback, Everett Golson, didn't play fabulous, but he played disciplined, smart football, which was good enough.
“Everett played great,” Notre Dame All-American tight end Tyler Eifert said. “He made the plays when he needed to and got rid of the ball when he needed to. He got us into the right plays when he was supposed to check it. I thought he played a great game.”
Golson finished the night completing 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards and rushing for 64 yards.
Believe in yourself
Though no one (other than Kelly’s wife) predicted a Fighting Irish win, the Notre Dame staff and players had no doubts about their ability to pull this stunner off.
“Our kids were confident,” Kelly said. “They came in well prepared and I told them that I was very confident in their ability to go on the road and play very good football. I thought that exhibited that confidence in the first half.”
Notre Dame did what only four other teams in 14 seasons have done to the Sooners by beating them in Norman.