With OU taking its trip to South Bend, Ind., this week, a look back at what told the story from last year and how it applies to Saturday.
Notre Dame was by far the physical team
This game was the wakeup call for OU's offensive and defensive lines. It wasn't the only reason Bill Bedenbaugh was brought in for the offensive line and Jerry Montgomery for the defensive but this painted the picture of what OU needed to do to get better. OU could only manage 15 rushing yards in the game. And though Landry Jones had a lot of success through the air, it didn't amount to a lot of points. Conversely, Notre Dame grinded out 215 yards rushing. Time of possession told the story in the second half. The Irish had the ball for 19:57. OU controlled it for 10:03. Notre Dame wore down the Sooners. OU has made physicality a point of emphasis this season.
Third down conversions were huge
Notre Dame converted four third downs in the second half and two of them were on plays that resulted in touchdowns in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Irish were 7-of-15 on third downs, while OU was 4-of-14. OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said that's what he remembers most from last year's game – the inability of his guys to get off the field. With OU's more attacking scheme this year, this will be the test to see if the scheme change has paid off.
Bell gained invaluable experience
Last year's game is a huge reason why OU coaches and players are not worried about junior quarterback Blake Bell and nerves in his first road start. Bell made the two biggest plays on offense in the fourth quarter in this game. On fourth-and-2 at the Notre Dame 9 yard line, OU lined up in the BellDozer only for Bell to complete an 8-yard pass to Trey Millard. The next play Bell rushed for the touchdown, which marked the first rushing touchdown allowed by Notre Dame in the season.
Saunders had a career in a game
This was the coming out party for Jalen Saunders. He had some moments in his first couple of games, but this is when everybody realized why it was so crucial to not redshirt him after being declared eligible. Saunders finished with an incredible 15 catches for 181 yards. Saunders has been lost in the shuffle the last two games. Saturday could be his chance to make a splash once again. Or it could be the chance for another receiver to bust out, somebody like Durron Neal who is only getting better with each game this season.
The Irish showed championship mettle
With the game in the balance, it was the Irish that made one big play after another. The 50-yard reception for Chris Brown was a momentum changer and led to Notre Dame taking the 20-13 lead. That was followed by the Manti Te'o interception on the next drive. In a hostile environment in a tough battle, Notre Dame rose to the occasion. That's what OU fans are hoping the Sooners do this weekend. A road win at OU propelled the Irish to the BCS championship game. A road win at Notre Dame can put the Sooners back in the national championship conversation.