Bell Leads Sooners To Road Win Over Notre Dame
Blake Bell threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter and No. 14 Oklahoma jumped to a two-touchdown lead in the opening 3 minutes and beat No. 22 Notre Dame 35-21 on Saturday.
It was the Sooners' second win over the Fighting Irish in 11 meetings.
The Sooners had three interceptions that led to TDs, including a 24-yard score by linebacker Corey Nelson. Damien Williams, suspended the previous game against Tulsa for violating team rules, added an 11-yard TD run after an interception by linebacker Frank Shannon as the Sooners went ahead 14-0.
Bell threw a 26-yard TD pass to Lacoltan Bester to cap an 88-yard drive after an interception by cornerback Julian Wilson late in the second quarter.
The Irish cut the lead to 27-21 in the fourth quarter, but the Sooners answered with Shepard's TD.
The only other victory for Oklahoma (4-0) in the series was a 40-0 win in 1956 that remains the worst home loss for the Irish (3-2). The loss ended a 10-game home winning streak for the Irish and ended its domination of a program that has just one fewer national title than Notre Dame's eight.
After Notre Dame played a nearly perfect game in beating the Sooners last season, with no turnovers and just one penalty for 5 yards, Oklahoma was the one that made the fewest mistakes Saturday as the Irish couldn't overcome the three turnovers and eight penalties for 77 yards. Oklahoma had no turnovers and four penalties for 31 yards.
The Sooners, who managed just 15 yards rushing against the Irish last season, had 19 yards on their first two rushing attempts and finished with 212 yards rushing. Brennan Clay led the Sooners with 77 yards on 14 carries and Blake ran for 59 yards on 12 carries.
The game was a stark contrast to last season, when the Irish dominated the lines of scrimmage and amassed 215 yards on the ground. The Sooners frequently went wide on both runs and passes to try to offset Notre Dame's size inside. The Irish managed to rush for a season-high 220 yards, with George Atkinson running for 148 yards on 14 carries, but it wasn't enough.
Bell, making his second career start, wasn't as impressive as he was when he passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-20 win over Tulsa, but he was good enough to lead the Sooners over the Irish. He was 22 of 30 passing for 232 yards and two touchdowns. He left with what appeared to be a cramp in the third quarter following an 11-yard run. But backup Trevor Knight, who started the first two games, ran for 30 yards on the next play to help set up a 27-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicutt, who later added a 19-yarder.
Bell came back in the fourth quarter to connect with Shepard on the 54-yard pass and 2-point conversion.
Tommy Rees struggled for a second straight game. After three straight games of passing for more than 300 yards, he was 9-of-24 passing for a season-low 104 yards.
The Irish, who were held to 82 yards rushing against Michigan State, had 88 yards rushing in first quarter against Oklahoma, rushed for a season-high 220 yards, highlighted by an 80-yard TD run by Atkinson on Notre Dame's first offensive play of the second half to cut the lead to 21-14. Atkinson took the handoff, took advantage of a block and raced up the sideline for the third career TD run of more than 50 yards.
The 21 points were the most allowed this season by Oklahoma, which had been giving up just 9 points a game.
Many of the sellout crowd of 80,795 wore green as requested by Irish coach Brian Kelly, but there were a fair share of Oklahoma fans in the stands as well -- although nothing like a game against Nebraska in 2000 when Cornhuskers fans wearing red took up about a third of the stadium. The 14-point loss matches the second-worst home loss under Kelly. The worst was 37-14 to Stanford in 2010.