I have gotten up some mornings and realize that day was just not going to be my day. It never takes very long, and it rarely changes. You just know it’s a day you should have stayed in bed. Saturday night was one of those nights for the Oklahoma Sooners as they invited the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to town and proceeded to get beat up by them for 4 quarters. What went wrong?
First, and maybe more important, the coaching staff of the Sooners didn’t do a great job.
I don’t typically preach too much about play calling, because it always comes down to the players executing, no matter what they play. But on Saturday night I felt that early on the Sooners were trying too hard to force the run game. It wasn’t coming naturally and it was forcing the Sooners into obvious passing situations. The Notre Dame defense was much too strong to just force the run, but the Sooners staff felt like they could.
Also, because they couldn’t run, it allowed the Fighting Irish to play those intermediate routes the Sooners love to throw much tighter, not allowing yards after the catch and stalling out drives. The Sooners should have taken some shots downfield early, and try and catch that Notre Dame secondary sleeping. The offensive game plan was off from the get go, and the adjustments were just never there.
On defense the Sooners got pushed around. Later in the week I am going to write more on this, but for now understand this team is not constructed on either side of the football to contend with big strong physical football teams. They’ve gone a little soft, and it really showed as the Fighting Irish gashed them. The Sooners D made a few big plays, and allowed a couple of monster ones, but it was all the third down conversions they allowed, and the little plays where they could have made stops and didn’t that really added up.
And some of the errors for the Sooners were unforced. Center Gabe Ikard had 2 huge mistakes on snaps that just crushed the will of the team. You could see how deflated they were. On the opening drive the Sooners were driving and a horrible snap by Ikard forced a punt when they were almost assured points. Then late in the 4th, the Sooners down 10 Ikard again botches a snap and forces quarterback Landry Jones to attempt a throw away, which was actually caught by running back Brennan Clay but for a big loss, and shutting down any hope of a comeback the Sooners might have had. Ikard grew up a Notre Dame fan, so maybe he was just giving back a little.
Typically I don’t complain about officiating either. I understand that human error is part of the game and have never been a big referee basher. But in this game on what was almost certainly the most important, the interception by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, there was a big mistake. No, it was an interception, and an amazing one at that. They even went to replay and confirmed it. But lost in all the excitement of the play was the egregious pass interference that went uncalled that caused the interception in the first place. The play was already under review; it only makes sense to me that pass interference should be reviewable. And before anyone says anything, I have said that pass interference in the NFL and college for years. If they had reviewed it, there’d been no interception and the Sooners would have still been moving the ball, already near mid-field. If the goal is to get the call right, why not get the ENTIRE call right?
But no sour grapes for me. The Fighting Irish came in and won. The better team for sure. It was a game that was very winnable for the Sooners but it just wasn’t meant to be. Time to rally, get their heads back on straight and finish the season strong. The potential for a ten win season and still a BCS bowl are a possibility and that must be the focus from here on out.