Bob Stoops and Oklahoma came out on the wrong side of things Saturday night in Norman against a Notre Dame team that has all the look of a national title contender.
You know what happened. You know what we do here. Let's get things started and take an in-depth look at how things played out.
* Oklahoma goes hurry up for their first four plays taking it all the way from their 12 yard line out to their 49 yard line in just over one minute on the game clock. After that fourth play, Jalen Saunders comes up tapping his helmet which I'm sure many of you know is a sign to his sideline that he needs to come out of the game. Anybody else find this to be odd? Four plays in and you're already gassed to the point you're calling for a sub? Granted, he made receptions on three of those four plays but it's not like any of them were deep routes.
Anyway, my point was that the offense is in hyper-speed mode, moving the ball with ease, then inexplicably chooses to slow down to that hurry up and wait/check with me on the sideline mode. Is it easy to sit here and say the upcoming botched snap doesn't happen if Heupel maintains the hurry up pace? Of course. Probably unfair to make that assumption, but there is no arguing the fact the Irish struggled with the pace every time the OU offense picked it up and the seemingly odd decisions as to when to slow things down continue to baffle me.
Moving on, play number five is a first down run by Trey Millard and then it happens. The offense is standing around, fixated on the sideline, before Landry goes back to take the snap.
Now before the actual play, I heard some OU people say that crowd noise played a factor in this botched snap. Admittedly, watching the replay now is much different than being in the stadium but if the crowd is making noise on this play it's almost impossible to hear through the television broadcast.
Stoops also addressed this today when he was asked whether or not he and the coaches were aware of the play clock running down. He said that they were, but watching his now one might argue that. I say that because just as the play clock ticks to four seconds, Jones steps up as if to call an audible. As he's doing so Ikard snaps the ball to no one and as we all know it results in a drive killing 19-yard loss. Maybe in another second or two, assuming the snap isn't made, the coaches call that timeout to avoid the delay of game that looks virtually inevitable given Jones' apparent decision to call an audible. Obviously, we'll never know much like we'll never know how different this game might have been if OU comes out, drives right down the field, and puts points on the board.
And I promise, we won't spend nearly 500 words on every OU possession.
* Really nice play from Aaron Colvin on Notre Dame's second offensive play. Absorbs the block from the Irish wide receiver, recognizes it's a run play, comes up quick off the edge to make the tackle for loss.
* Sooners are very lucky Everett Golson doesn't convert this 3rd & 8 on their opening drive (of course we know this is a problem as the game progresses). Frank Shannon gets pressure up the middle on a blitz, but a lane opens for Golson to run as Aaron Franklin gets pushed too far to his left. Javon Harris is spying Golson on the play and in perfect position to stop him for a minimal gain and force a punt. Unfortunately, he squares up but stops his feet which allows Golson to make a cut to his right, while using the stiff arm to fend off Harris, and lunge for the first down marker. They rule him just short as Demontre Hurst comes up to deliver the blow, but that was fortunate for OU after frankly a really poor play from Harris in the open field.
* For all the good Saunders did in the game, he looks to be a real liability as a blocker in the run game. Just completely whiffed on a guy here on 2nd & 2 forcing Damien Williams to try and bounce it to the corner rather than punching it up inside and getting an easy first down.
* 1st Q, 9:29 - 3rd & 2 OU from their 43. Credit to Saunders here for getting open and making the first down catch after missing that block. However, as he makes the catch (and he's WIDE OPEN) he makes a great move back to the inside but stumbles and falls down. Honestly, as I watch this I'm not entirely sure if he keeps his feet there he doesn't take it to the house. He beats his man to the inside and then has Kenny Stills coming over to make what would have been a block on the only other guy in position to make the tackle. Maybe just wishful thinking on my part, but with his speed I think he breaks that one if he doesn't trip himself.
* Credit to Oklahoma's offensive line as they've thrown on nine of eleven plays following that last pass to Saunders and Notre Dame hasn't got within arm's reach of Jones. Of course, pass protection has never really been Oklahoma's problem though. Still, it's worth pointing out.
* I will say this and then leave it alone. Manti Te'o sure talks a lot of you know what out there (or at least it looks that way on tv). I guess when you're that good, you have the right but a part of me feels like it's just unnecessary.
* Man, it's still early (just OU's second offensive possession) but the Sooners wide receivers have been horrible with their run blocks. Justin Brown just let a guy go untouched crashing down into the line to stop Williams for no gain. Didn't even put a hand on the guy.
* I could be wrong, but it looks to me like the Irish spent more time in this first quarter in a 4-3 than their expected 3-4 formation.
* 1st Q, 7:24 - 3rd & 3 for OU from the ND 11. This tipped pass is was a blessing in disguise, I'll explain. This formation should tell you all you need to know from Josh Heupel in this game. 3rd & 3 from the ND 11 and OU is in the shotgun (of course), four wide, with trips (Brown, Saunders, and Millard) to the top of the screen. Saunders and Brown both run inside post routes and do so basically with very little separation, thus making them both much easier to cover. Jones appears to lock on to Brown (in my opinion) and rears back to let it go.
However, as the ball is tipped the camera pans out and you can see a Brown is bracketed between two defenders, one underneath and a second essentially just behind him inside his jersey. Then a few frames later, you see a third defender come into the screen that could have also easily been in position to make a play on Brown and/or the ball had the ball not been tipped.
So in short, it looks as if Jones was forcing the ball into, potentially, triple coverage. Who knows what might have happened, but based on what I'm seeing it's hard not to believe that would have been an almost sure fire interception.
As it is, the ball is tipped though Stills does have a chance to haul it on off the deflection. However, again in my opinion, he looks to feel the hit coming and short arms it just a bit looking to avoid it and fails to make the catch. The camera comes back to him and he's jawing with the Notre Dame safety who came up to make the hit that prevented him from making the catch. That's a win for the Irish defense as Oklahoma is forced to kick a field goal. 3-0 OU
* Five yard rushing gain on first down, you take that every time.
* 1st Q, 6:35 - 2nd & 5 for ND from their 38. Cierre Woods 62-yard touchdown run. For some reason, OU is in a 4-2-5 here despite the fact the Irish are in a two tight end set with just two receivers on the field. Also for some reason, Julian Wilson is at Hurst's normal corner spot who appears to be playing the nickel back on this play (first time I can ever remember that happening).
Two things really stand out here. (1) As soon as the ball is snapped, the ND receiver at the bottom of the screen (who is actually the TE Eifert) sprints directly to Tony Jefferson to try and set his block. Jefferson appears to do a horrible job recognizing this and as a result actually allows Eifert to block both himself and Wilson, completely taking both out of the play on a single block. (2) Wort looks to recognize the play pretty early, shuffles his feet to get into position to fill the hole, but gets absolutely swallowed up by the ND left guard who just abuses him, locking on and driving him backwards as Wood zooms by untouched. What makes it even worse in my opinion is that Wort isn't even the left guard's initial assignment. He comes off his initial block to destroy Wort, who you'd think could have either at least attempted to shed the block and/or avoided it in the first place.
To the point Matt was making Sunday night on the podcast, Javon Harris appears to make a really bad read here as well. He comes up way too aggressively, getting way to far up the field, taking himself out of position as Wood hits the second level and breaks into the open field. Just an all-around horrible executed play on multiple levels by this Oklahoma defense. 7-3 ND
* I could have sworn, in college, you can't grab on to and hold the receiver when the ball is in the air, right? I guess I need to go back and re-read my rule book, because I'm almost positive that's pass interference. Didn't appear to be the case Saturday night for some mysterious reason.
* 1st Q, 5:08 - 2nd & 10 for ND from their 24. Here Wort makes a really nice play on Wood for a loss. When he's unblocked, Wort is a really good linebacker. Just on problem with that though . . .
* Trey Millard seemed to be the only one having any kind of success running against this Notre Dame front seven. So with Williams having already hurt his ankle in this game, why not simply make Millard your primary ball carrier??? You're telling me Heupel genuinely believed Brennan Clay was the better option?
* Saunders has got some open field moves now, y'all.
* 1st Q, 2:11 - 1st & 10 OU from the ND 47. Jones, again, locks on to Brown here and is very lucky not to throw an interception. He actually locks on so badly, there are two Irish defenders with a legitimate chance to pick it off. Were it not for the first tipping the ball, the second very likely would have hauled it in. Oddly enough, you can actually hear a Notre Dame fan on the television broadcast call it out in anticipation before it even happens. That's how obvious it was.
End of the 1st Quarter, 7-3 ND.
* Outside of those first four plays on the first drive, the OU offense really hasn't gone back to the hurry up despite its obvious success.
* How irrelevant were the Oklahoma defensive ends in this game? The Irish are double teaming the two OU defensive tackles on almost every rush play and nobody in crimson has made them pay for it.
* 2nd Q, 10:30 - 3rd & 8 for ND from their 21. Oklahoma gets no pressure on Golson giving him plenty of time to make this first down throw. The Irish receiver runs a simple 10-yard stop route and while Golson delivers the ball high, he goes up to make the catch. In the first a several occasions, here Colvin actually has pretty good coverage the ND receiver just makes a better play on the ball. Hard to rip Colvin there as the other team typically has guys that are capable of making plays as well.
* It's truly depressing to watch this Oklahoma front four just get physically manhandled like this. Sigh.
* Mentioned it in my write up following the game, but worth bringing up again just how superb a game Brian Kelly called Saturday night. Doing so many things right with Golson, consistently putting him position to succeed.
* It just wouldn't be an OU game if the Sooners didn't burn a timeout while on defense.
* Hard not to feel coming out of these two losses that Mike Stoops' defensive game plans were just WAY too conservative. They gave both Golson and Klein all kinds of time to throw by just rushing four despite it rarely working throughout each game. You simply cannot expect your secondary to cover for that long. With this Oklahoma secondary, you put them out there on an island, wish them luck, create havoc around the quarterback, and take your chances. If you can't do that with guys like Colvin and Hurst back there, when the hell can you ever do it?!?
* Can someone please explain to me while Brennan Clay returns kickoffs? Anyone???
* Quick question - What is OU's best power run set? The diamond with Millard and Aaron Ripkowski in at fullback, right? How many times were they in it Saturday night? A handful at best?
* Hard to blame Jones for taking what Notre Dame was giving him underneath. They were playing so far off most of the game, it was just too easy not to take advantage. The only thing that was going to change the Irish strategy and bring their safeties up closer to the line of scrimmage, thus allowing OU to go down the field, was some semblance of a running game. Which we all know was never the case Saturday night.
* 2nd Q, 1:07 - 2nd & goal for OU from the ND 4. There's really no point in over analyzing this holding call, right? By the letter of the rule it was holding. By that same token, you could call that on literally every play if you wanted. In my opinion, it wasn't the difference in him getting in or not so you swallow that flag but obviously that didn't happen here. Devastating call and the delay in figuring out what happened only added to it.
* Hard not to enjoy Stoops just reaming the sideline official after the fact. The tv mics picked up more than one naughty word from the head coach. Two downs later, Stoops is still absolutely livid.
* The third down drop by Clay wasn't going to be a touchdown as I've seen some speculate, but Stoops admitted today if he makes that catch he likely gets close enough that he would have gone for it on fourth down. As it is, OU is forced once again to settle for three instead of six. Just like Notre Dame drew it up. 10-6 ND
* Stoops' halftime interview was an all-time Bob classic.
Second half will very likely post tomorrow night. Hopefully these 2,600 words can tide you over until then.