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SPORTS: University of Oklahoma

Out Of Luck: Bell, Defense Lead Oklahoma Past Notre Dame

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The Oklahoma Sooners wanted to be more physical this week against a Notre Dame team that dominated the line of scrimmage a year ago in Norman. Saturday, the Sooners weren't always the most physical, but they were physical enough to come out with a 35-21 win over the Fighting Irish, just the second victory for the Sooners in the all-time series.

Blake Bell turned in another strong outing, hitting 22-of-30 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns while running for 59 yards on 12 carries. Bell was injured late in the third quarter, leaving the game for a short time with cramping issues. He returned on the Sooners' first possession of the fourth quarter.

The Sooners were very effective running the ball on Saturday, something they were unable to do against Notre Dame a year ago. In Norman last season, OU managed just 15 yards on 24 carries. This year was very different as Oklahoma racked up 212 yards on the ground on 42 carries, an impressive average of five yards per carry.

The Sooners jumped on the Irish early, thanks to some great plays from the OU defense. On the third play of the game, linebacker Eric Striker blindsided Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, deflecting the football into the arms of linebacker Corey Nelson, who sprinted 24 yards for a touchdown.

On the very next play for Notre Dame, Rees' pass was deflected by Aaron Colvin and picked off by Frank Shannon, who returned it to the Notre Dame 32-yard line. Four plays later, Oklahoma was in the end zone again, courtesy of an 11-yard Damien Williams run.

Less than three minutes into the game, the Sooners were up 14-0 and the sellout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium was stunned.

Oklahoma's defense was strong throughout the entire game, except for stretches of the middle quarters when the Notre Dame offensive line helped the Irish pile up 220 rushing yards. The Sooners made the night miserable for Rees, harassing him into a 9-of-24 performance for just 104 yards.

The Fighting Irish bounced back late in the first quarter, going 80 yards in 10 plays and just over five minutes. The drive was capped by a six-yard touchdown pass from Rees to TJ Jones.

The Oklahoma defense held strong, keeping the Irish at bay while the OU offense sputtered, unable to push Notre Dame off the ball. Late in the first half, Rees was intercepted for a third time, this time by Julian Wilson. The Sooners took advantage, driving 88 yards in 4:43 that was capped by a 26-yard pass from Bell to LaColton Bester that put OU up 21-7 at halftime.

The Irish struck quickly in the second half, as George Atkinson took the first carry of the second half for Notre Dame and dashed 80 yards for the touchdown to cut the deficit to seven.

OU was treated to a major scare late in the third quarter when Bell went down with cramps after hobbling around after a play. He left the field and went to the locker room to get fluids while Trevor Knight led the Sooners on a field goal drive.

Notre Dame continued to chip away at the Oklahoma lead. Rees hit Troy Niklas for a 30-yard touchdown on a very bad blown coverage by the Oklahoma secondary.

However, Bell responded immediately. On his first drive back after cramping up, Bell hit Sterling Shepard on a quick slant on 3rd and three. Shepard turned the short pass into a 54-yard touchdown.

The Oklahoma defense shut down the Notre Dame offense after that, forcing the Irish into three-and-out on its next three possessions.

Last season the Irish made the plays in the fourth quarter that determined the game. This year, the script was flipped as the Sooners took care of business down the stretch and got the program's biggest win since taking down Florida State on the road two years ago.

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