Sounds like a sound plan for Bob Stoops' perennial contender Sooners, right?
Everybody had a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
Notre Dame's defense did Saturday night what it has each week this season: control the contest with its dominant front, keep completions downfield to a minimum, tackle receivers after the catch, and, in the words of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, "keep the points down."
An Oklahoma team that averaged 44 points per game coming into the evening, and had posted a whopping 156 in its previous three games combined hit pay dirt just once Saturday night, losing for just the fifth time in its last 84 home games, 30-13 to the still undefeated Fighting Irish.
"That was the way we set up. We were going to give up yards to keep the points down," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly post-game. "We could not let the points get out of reach for us."
Diaco's unit held the Sooners offense equipped with a rushing attack averaging 199 yards per contest coming in, to a paltry 15 rushing yards on 24 attempts. The host's lone offensive highlight: a one-yard plunge by backup quarterback Blake Bell, the first score attained via the rush vs. the Irish defense this season.
Wire to WireDouble-digit underdogs despite a #5 ranking in the BCS polls, Brian Kelly's Irish jumped to a 7-3 lead midway through The Opening period, a 62-yard untouched sprint-and-score by senior Cierre Wood silencing the record-setting Owen Field crowd.
Notre Dame never trailed thereafter, though Bell's score knotted the game at 13 with just over nine minutes remaining in the contest. The Irish embarked on a 7-play, 73-yard scoring drive thereafter, the bulk of the damage done by a 50-yard play-action post pass from quarterback Everett Golson to true freshman wide receiver Chris Brown. The reception marked the first of Brown's college career.
Golson plunged in from one-yard out thereafter, scoring on a designed draw from the shotgun on 3rd and goal. The redshirt-freshman hit for 177 passing yards on 13 completions, avoiding a turnover for just the third time this season -- each time in a game played away from home.
Golson added 64 invaluable rushing yards on 11 carries -- both numbers marking career-bests.
"What we'd been hearing was a lot of people didn't think we could win this game. That kind of just added that fuel to my fire that was already burning," said Golson.
Leading 20-13 with 4:27 remaining, senior linebacker Manti Te'o scooped up a third-down pass defended by classmate Dan Fox before it could touch the turf, the diving effort resulted in Te'o's sixth interception of the season -- and his Irish career -- a Notre Dame record for linebackers.
"We knew that if we came to work, we came into today with confidence and everybody doing their job that we would be fine," said Te'o. "I'm glad we came out the right way."
Sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza nailed a 46-yard field goal six snaps later to extend Notre Dame's lead to 23-13 with 3:22 remaining. A four-and-out by the Sooners followed, and the Irish sealed it behind senior Theo Riddick's three-rush, 20-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run through the heart of the Sooners defense delivering the death blow.
"Its just the way we play. I'm more interested in how we develop as a football team," said Kelly of the surprising final margin. "I think offensively we showed some things today that we needed to mature as a football team."
Kelly's Irish out gained their high-powered hosts 403-379, striking a balance with 188 passing and 215 rushing yards.
Notre Dame improved to 14-0 under Kelly when throwing fewer than 30 times in a contest.