Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 30, 2013

FROM THE SIDELINES: No. 14 Sooners’ early blitzkrieg too much for Irish

By STU SWARTZ
THE GOSHEN NEWS

SOUTH BEND — Oklahoma scored “Sooner” and Notre Dame had no answers later.

While college football is a 60-minute game, this one was decided in the first 2:45. Two interceptions and two touchdowns gave the Sooners a quick 14-0 lead.

That proved to be the difference as the final score wound up 35-21 on a warm and sunny early autumn day at Rockne Stadium.

Kickoff was at 3:40, but the Irish didn’t show up until a few minutes later. By then, the deficit was too great for an Irish team not suited for sterling comebacks.

The season’s second loss means Notre Dame is out of the running for a national championship which hasn’t been achieved in South Bend since 1988.

So, where do the Irish go from here?

A BCS bowl appearance is still attainable, but that would probably mean running the table and finishing with a 10-2 regular season record.

That seems unlikely with high-scoring Arizona State the next foe Saturday night in Dallas. There are also trips to Pittsburgh and Stanford looming, along with home games against Southern California and Brigham Young.

Head coach Brian Kelly and his staff now face the challenge of, after losing two games, not losing the team and the 2013 season.

Everything went right for Notre Dame in 2012. Sure, they were lucky to win a couple games but the Irish earned a national title game appearance with consistent and clutch play.

Most of  the defensive talent returned from a unit that surrendered very few points last season, but there are three key players who departed.

Defensive end Kapron Lewis Moore, linebacker Manti Te’o and safety Zeke Motta were not only playmakers but also leaders for the entire squad.

Playmakers and leaders are what appear to be lacking on the current Notre Dame team which is probably more talented overall than last year’s surprising crew.

The loss for academic reasons of quarterback Everett Golson was a stinging blow as the offense was built around his running and throwing capabilities.

Senior Tommy Rees knows the offense and deserves to be the starter, but he is not a running threat and that makes it easier for opponents to defend the Irish.

October is upon us and it will be a pivotal month in Notre Dame’s football destiny of 2013.

There was plenty of Oklahoma red among a crowd of 80,795 and Sooner fans enjoyed just their second win over the Irish in 10 tries. The other was by a 40-0 score in 1956 at ND.

This was the 234th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame and 282nd in the last 283 home games.

The exception was a game against Air Force on Thanksgiving Day 1973 when students went home for a long holiday weekend.

Oklahoma history includes two legendary coaches — Bud Wilkinson who was 145-29-4 from 1947-63 and Barry Switzer 157-29-4 from 1973-88.

Rick Mirer of Goshen, whose senior season as Notre Dame quarterback was 21 years ago, remains prominent in the Irish history book.

Mirer guided the Irish to 28 victories during his career, second only to 1973 national championship quarterback Tom Clements who had 29.

Mirer remains fifth in career touchdown passes with 41. Brady Quinn had 95, Jimmy Clausen 60, Ron Powlus 52 and Rees now has 44.

The 1989 Goshen High School graduate completed 377 of 698 passes in three seasons as ND’s starter for 5,997 yards. He was intercepted just 23 times.

Kickoff  for Saturday’s game against Arizona State is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on NBC and the home game Oct. 19 against USC starts at 7:30 on NBC.

Home dates with Navy on Nov. 2 and BYU on Nov. 23 are both slated for 3:30 on NBC.

The game at Air Force on Oct. 26 kicks off at 5 p.m. while no times have been set for games at Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 and Stanford on Nov. 30.