PASS OFFENSE: B
Everett Golson says he likes playing on the road because he likes when people “count (him) out.” So everyone make sure to wear Pitt’s blue and gold next week so he thinks he’s at an away game. Wait, that probably doesn’t work. Golson didn’t have a stellar passing game on Saturday, but he didn’t really need to. He just needed to make a handful of big plays and not turn the ball over. A 50-yard bomb to Chris Brown, a 22-yard pass in coverage to DaVaris Daniels and consistent chemistry with T.J. Jones coupled with a goose egg in the turnover box is just what the Irish needed from Golson. That is, of course, as long as Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick keep running like they do.
RUN OFFENSE: A+
For the third week in a row, the Notre Dame ground game carried the day for the offense. With George Atkinson III battling the flu in South Bend, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and Everett Golson combined for 215 rushing yards and a touchdown apiece in Notre Dame’s win over Oklahoma. This unit has been on a steady rise for the past few weeks, and Saturday’s performance gives the tailbacks more to build on. Congratulations to Wood, whose 62-yard touchdown run was the longest of his career. As the running backs continue to put up 200-yard performances, more and more pressure leaves Golson’s shoulders.
PASS DEFENSE: B-
The way head coach Brian Kelly described it, the Irish secondary was the sacrificial lamb of Saturday’s win. The defense needed to give up a lot of passing yards, he said, in order to keep the score down. There was a method to the madness in that Oklahoma’s Landry Jones threw for 356 yards on 51 pass attempts, hitting receivers for gains of 35, 33, 21 and 18 yards, but never found the end zone. It’s hard to mark a unit down too much when they keep the nation’s 17th best passer scoreless. Manti Te’o had another huge game for the Irish, grabbing the late-game interception and completely steamrollering Jones early in the second quarter. Can you believe that was Te’o’s first sack of the year? It’s about time that guy started contributing.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Oklahoma had three total rushing yards after the first half. Granted, a bad snap sent the ball 19 yards behind Oklahoma’s line of scrimmage. Granted, Landry Jones passed it 27 times in the half. But the Sooners still only finished with 15 total rushing yards, led by Damien Williams’s 29 yards on 13 carries. That was Williams’s worst rushing performance of the season. Notre Dame loses its A+ by letting the behemoth of a quarterback — the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Blake Bell — end Notre Dame’s nine-game no-rushing touchdown streak that dated back to last season, but overall another stifling performance that people have come to expect from this front seven.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Just when Kyle Brindza makes everyone doubt him, he nails field goals from 44 and 46 yards in the fourth quarter to help seal the game. Brindza finished 3 for 4 against Oklahoma, earning praise from Kelly but also a warning (and, subsequently, a promise) to never miss again. Cam McDaniel filled in for the flu-stricken Atkinson on kickoff returns, donning the No. 21 for a friend who had drowned earlier this week. McDaniel was exciting to watch in the return game, making defenders miss and spinning and sprinting for a few more yards every time he was hit. Punter Ben Turk had another solid game, booting one kick 51 yards and finishing with a 40.8-yard average. Davonte Neal is slowly morphing from a non-factor to a negative factor on punt returns if he keeps letting punts bounce 15 yards behind him.
Memorial Stadium was a sight to behold before kickoff. Sooners fans had “striped” the stadium, alternating red and white shirts and sweaters from section to section. The school had passed out white rally flags. A goosebump-inducing hype video was played on the JumboTron before kickoff. There were fireworks and an American flag the length of the field and 86,031 people — the most ever in Memorial Stadium history — ready to see the Irish fall. But Kelly and his coaching staff had Notre Dame prepared. The defense reeled early on Oklahoma’s explosive first five plays, but the Irish found their stride. A complicated offensive package kept the Sooner defense guessing throughout the fourth quarter. In the waning seconds of the game, when Oklahoma was poised to score a meaningless touchdown, the Irish defense still did not break. Playing the full 60 minutes, regardless of score, will be an important mindset in these next three games against Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest.