At First Glance

O'Malley's game notebook presents a handful of game balls, reviews the contest's decisive moments, and offers numbers of note in Saturday's 35-21 home loss to Oklahoma.

Offensive MVP: George Atkinson

The junior speedster produced far and away his best game vs. a quality opponent, erupting for a career high 148 rushing yards on career-best 14 carries. It was Atkinson's 80-yard touchdown sprint early in the third quarter that drew the Irish to within seven, 21-14, after entering halftime with a tenuous 14-point deficit, a situation exacerbated by the Sooners beginning the half in possession.

After the Irish defense forced a Sooners punt following four plays, Atkinson took quarterback Tommy Rees' handoff over the vacated left side and outran Oklahoma's back seven for a momentum-changing score.

"We didn't think George ran physical enough, we told him that," said head coach Brian Kelly post game. "We told him if he wanted to be the starter, that he can't get tackled by his ankles. He can't be the guy that goes down. He's 220 pounds and I thought he ran the ball today like I expect George Atkinson to run the ball.

"He's got to do that every week. He shouldn't be tackled by his ankles, and he showed that today, and I hope he brings that game with him each and every week because it was sure fun to watch George Atkinson run today. Wasn't it fun to watch him run? That's the way he should run each and every week. I think he's capable of doing that, and we just need that from him consistently."

Offensive Game Balls: Freshman Tarean Folston made the most of his two carries, gaining seven yards including a solid five after contact on his first carry, then taking his second 36 yards down the left sideline to set up Notre Dame's first touchdown of the day, a pass from Tommy Rees to T.J. Jones for a 7-yard score.

Jones led the Irish with four receptions and 42 yards on a day Irish quarterbacks combined to complete just nine of 25 pass attempts.

Junior tight end Troy Niklas added two grabs, the first a key 13-yard grab to move the chains, then later, a 30-yard score uncovered down the right sideline that cut the Sooners lead to six, 27-21, but the Irish would draw no closer.

Defensive MVP: Carlo Calabrese

The 5th-year senior finished with 10 tackles including seven stops that limited Sooners ball carriers to three yards or fewer and three for no gain at the line of scrimmage, two of which forced punts, the other in a goal-to-go situation the eventually led to a Oklahoma field goal.

Defensive Game Ball: Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt overcame a sluggish start Saturday to finish with five tackles, a sack, and three quarterback pressures, with three of his four plays behind scrimmage occurring in the second stanza and each of his pressures forcing fourth-down situations.

He added a stop at the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 2 in the second half as well.

Special Teams MVP: Punter Kyle Brindza Did not attempt a field goal on the afternoon but Brindza banged five punts for a total of 205 yards (41.0 average), with a long of 55 yards, helping to flip field position on four of his five offerings, the other an ill-timed 29-yard shank midway through the third, but the Irish special teams were bailed out by a Sooners 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play.

Freshman receiver James Onwualu made a momentum-changing play as well, dropping Oklahoma kick returner Roy Finch at his own 12-yard line to begin the second half.

Just the Facts

- After not allowing more than two touchdowns in 26 of 32 contests entering the season, the Irish defense has surrendered three or more in three of five games this fall. The 35 points scored by Oklahoma today is the second-highest against the Irish in South Bend in the 22-home game Kelly era. Stanford scored 37 vs. Notre Dame nearly three years ago to the day (Sept. 25, 2010).

- The Irish defense has yielded 14 touchdowns this fall, one less than it did during the 2012 season including the 42-point outburst by Alabama.

- Oklahoma produced 450 yards of total offense, the third-largest total vs. Notre Dame during the Kelly/Diaco era. Notre Dame had held 11 of its last 17 foes to 300 yards or fewer dating back to the beginning of 2012, but three of those six games in excess of 300 yards have occurred over the first five games this season (Temple, 362; Michigan 480; and Oklahoma's 450 today).

- Notre Dame's 220 rushing yards on 29 carries marks the highest total in defeat during the Kelly era.

- The Irish fell to just 2-12 when rushing the ball 30 times or fewer.

- Tommy Rees had thrown 67 consecutive passes without an interception entering the contest. He was picked off on his second and third throw Saturday afternoon, throwing three over the course of the contest. It was Rees third three-interception day of his career but the first since the regular season finale at USC in 2010.

- Rees' first pass was ruled an interception when a blindside sack forced the ball to pop into the air as he released and into the waiting arms of linebacker Corey Nelson who ran untouched for a 24-yard score.

- Rees finished with a career-low 104 passing yards as a starter, hitting just nine of 24 attempts. He's missed on 35 of his last 58 passes over the last two outings.

- The loss ended Notre Dame's 10-game wining streak in South Bend, dropping Kelly's home record to 16-6 overall.

- Notre Dame's streak of victories when rushing in excess of 200 yards ended at 15 Saturday. It was only the third loss in 48 occasions dating back to the start of the 2005 season in which the Irish out-rushed their foe.


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