It's a Dallas Skyline thing, mixed in with a little Florida flavor. This was a huge game for the linebackers. Sophomore Eric Striker and senior Corey Nelson combined for the first touchdown of the game as Striker leveled Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees. The ball landed in Nelson's arms for the score. The next drive saw Frank Shannon pick off Rees. Both Nelson and Shannon are from Dallas Skyline. Shannon closed with eight tackles. But it wasn't a flawless performance as the Irish did have success running the ball.
Interesting dichotomy here. OU rushed for 212 yards on 42 attempts. That's the good. But the Sooners still failed to convert several short yardage situations because they simply weren't physical enough. That's the bad. Saturday obviously was a vast improvement from last year's showing against the Irish. Gone are the days of 15 yards on 24 carries. And the line did a good job of keeping Blake Bell upright and giving him passing lanes to find his receivers.
You know the Irish wanted to target redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez. They attacked him the very first play on a deep ball. Sanchez was in perfect position and batted it away. This was a big-time outing by Sanchez, who was credited with three pass breakups. Minus the miscommunication by Aaron Colvin on Notre Dame's final touchdown, it was a solid outing by Colvin, too, returning to the lineup after missing the last game. Rees was 9-of-24 with three interceptions and a lot of that can be attributed to the cornerback play.
Stats cannot tell the whole story when it comes to a defensive tackle. It's no longer a surprise when Phillips comes up big, it's what's expected. Phillips had one tackle and one sack but made his presence known as the game wore on. After Notre Dame blitzed OU for an 80-yard touchdown to start the second half, the Irish rushed another eight times for only 28 yards. Phillips started to control the line of scrimmage and push Notre Dame linemen into the backfield.
Everybody was jumping on this during the in-game chat, and it's clear that something is going to have to be addressed regarding some of the head-scratching calls by offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. He gets a pass because the call he made for OU's final touchdown was a nice touch when Bell found Sterling Shepard for the 54-yard score in the fourth quarter. Other than that, though, a lot of questionable decisions as to when to run or pass. And if you run, where you're running to accomplish your goals. It didn't wind up costing the Sooners in this one, but it's a slippery slope to be on right now.