Despite a 3-0 record and a recorded shutout on the season, there were still several questions surrounding the Oklahoma defense as the headed to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Some questioned schemes and personnel while other skeptics wondered about the level of competition.
When the dust settled at Notre Dame Stadium we had the answers that we needed. Oklahoma's defense is fast. They are powerful up front and have a knack for getting to the ball. Six different defenders were credited with making plays in the Notre Dame backfield and the group was particularly good at tormenting Tommy Rees. The Irish quarterback was sacked once, hurried five other times, had six passes broken up, and was forced into three interceptions.
The defense set the tone for the game on Notre Dame's first two offensive series. On just the third play of the game Rees was blindsided by Eric Striker who came on a blitz. The hit interrupted Rees' throwing motion which resulted in a pick six for Oklahoma. On the very next series, Rees was intercepted by linebacker Frank Shannon, on a tipped ball, allowing the Sooner offense to take the field, for the first time in the game, at the Irish 32 and already up by seven.
It wasn't a perfect day for Oklahoma's defense as they were beaten on a couple of big runs. George Atkinson had an 80-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and Tarean Folston had a 36-yard run in the game as well. However, what the Sooners were able to do to the Irish passing game was enough to secure the victory. Both of Rees' first two interceptions resulted in points for the Sooners and not only did his third interception lead to a scoring drive for Oklahoma but it was also from the OU 24 yard line which most likely takes points off the board for Notre Dame. With 21 points off of three Irish turnovers, you can actually say that the Sooners took this game from Notre Dame.
Defensive Line (B+) - It needs to be said that Jordan Phillips was an absolute A+ in this game. However, the line as a whole was overpowered a few times and gave way to some gaping holes for the Irish running backs. Defensive end Charles Tapper is right there with Phillips on the A+ grade as well.
Linebackers (B+) - Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon both had interceptions and Shannon's eight tackles were tied for the most on the team. The linebackers got taken out of the play on Atkinson's 80-yard TD run, otherwise their grade would have been higher.
Secondary (A) - Zach Sanchez was outstanding. It was expected that he'd get picked on and that's what the Irish tried to do. He got separated on one play, that led to a catch for a first down, but he also had three pass break ups. Gabe Lynn failing to rotate over on the touchdown pass to Troy Niklas keeps this unit from getting an A+.