Notre Dame executed its limited but effective plan for success to perfection when it defeated Oklahoma last season: Control the lines of scrimmage, keep it close and capitalize on turnovers. On Saturday in South Bend, Ind., the Sooners flipped the script from the opening possession in the 35-21 win.
It was OU dominating from the start, with linebacker Corey Nelson intercepting Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees on the third play from scrimmage and returning it 24 yards for the touchdown. Linebacker Frank Shannon intercepted Rees' very next pass and returned it 17 yards to set up a Damien Williams 11-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the anticipated showdown between traditional powers.
That early advantage allowed OU quarterback Blake Bell to simply manage the game in his first road start, completing 22 of 30 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns and adding 59 rushing yards.
Oklahoma finished with 212 rushing yards on 42 carries, a far cry from the 15 yards it had on the ground against ND last season in Norman, Okla.
In the game's marquee individual matchup, OU center Gabe Ikard largely neutralized ND defensive tackle Louis Nix III. The OU brain trust used a variety of methods to help out Ikard, but the versatile redshirt senior also won plenty of one-on-one showdowns with Nix. Nix had five tackles, but did not record a tackle for loss.