Heading into the weekend, the Oklahoma Sooners and their fans had questioned the level of competition. Were we seeing the actual product on the field or was something amiss, a problem left undiscovered? Many of those questions about who this team is and can be were answered as Oklahoma earned a 35-21 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
When Push Comes To Shove, The Offensive Line Can Hold Their Own
Over the past several years, many criticized this Oklahoma Sooners team and the perceived finesse mentality. That case was strongly backed by a lack of success in the running the ball consistently and even more so with the redzone woes. All those troubles have seemed to vanish, replaced with undeniable leadership and a hard nose attitude.
An experienced Sooner O-Line headed to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish knowing, without the shadow of doubt, this would be the biggest test of the season. Headlined by Louis Nix, the Irish possess a defensive front seven with the potential to land six of those in the NFL. Before Saturday came around, ND was giving up 114.25 rushing yards per game and had allowed two touchdowns through four games. There is no question that this unit is not only big, but also nasty.
While Oklahoma came off as timid to start the game, they quickly matched the physicality of Notre Dame in the trenches springing the rushing attack to 212 yards in South Bend. The effort marked the most yards given up on the ground by the Irish this season. Without only three pass rushes recorded on Blake Bell, the Sooners remained productive on offense with credit going to the offensive line for buying him time to make a read and find open receivers. Needless to say, ND failed to record a sack on Saturday.
Sterling Shepard Continues To Be A Major Asset
With the exit of Kenny Stills, the coaching staff began to look for a complimentary receiver for Jalen Saunders. However, the tides may have shifted at this point. There is no question that Saunders is an irreplaceable receiver, but playing the position is more than just catching a pass. Equally important to the success of a season is the ability of the receivers to block down field. During the stint of the Show Thread, this became a topic that a few readers commented on.
While I am not sure that I agree 100% with what was said, fact remains that Sterling Shepard can do it all. Not only does he make himself available time and time again as an open receiver, but he is able to do something with the ball in his hands. If you are looking for evidence of exactly what I am talking about look not further than this play...
Oklahoma Solidified Themselves As A National Contender
Sure, a win against the likes of the Baylor Bears will give the defense a confidence boost. But, there is only one thing that can compare to going into South Bend to play one of the most storied programs in history...escaping with a win! Playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd with question marks left unanswered usually does not bode well. With poise and resilience, this is an Oklahoma team that accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion. Not only did the win push the Sooners to the front of the Big XII conversation, it also threw their name into the national picture with a top 10 ranking in the Coaches' Poll.