SOUTH BEND —
Notre Dame’s 35-21 loss to Oklahoma Saturday night knocked the Fighting Irish out of the AP Top 25 poll.
The Irish, who were ranked No. 14 to start the season, dropped out of the AP survey released on Sunday. Oklahoma, which came to South Bend ranked No. 14, moved up to No. 11.
Next up for Notre Dame (3-2) is No. 22 Arizona State. The Irish and Sun Devils meet next Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly shrugged off talk about a second loss possibly putting an end to hopes for the Irish to make a BCS bowl game.
“I don’t really care about that stuff. That’s for you guys to talk about,” Kelly said. “I’ve got a football team here we’re trying to develop and work with. You guys can have your own comments and decide what that means and you can put us in whatever bowl you want.”
Kelly said to expect more of senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix in certain situations as the season progresses.
“I think Andrew gives us that dimension that allows us to run the football, help us out in some short yardage situations where we know it’s been difficult for us with so many guys on the line of scrimmage that it doesn’t turn into, you know, throw the football every time.,” Kelly said.
“We’d like to expand it where we get him to have some play action pass and some passing game, as well. “
As one might expect, Irish senior quarterback Tommy Rees was not happy with his performance – a day that included three first-half interceptions, two of which led directly to Oklahoma scores.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed with how I played individually,” Rees said. “ You’ve got to be better. You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win games against good teams like Oklahoma.”
Rees said he wasn’t rattled by the first two picks, which came within the first 1:10 of the game.
“I wasn’t shell-shocked. You have to bounce back between the play and stay positive and just keep moving forward,” Rees said. “There is a lot of football left to play.”
In the locker room
Senior linebacker Carlo Calabrese said the mood in the locker room after the game was down.
“No one’s happy that we lost,” Calabrese said. “Everyone was pretty frustrated about losing--nobody likes losing, and we lost today.”
But as a senior, Calabrese knows he’s expected to be one of the voices setting the tone for the team to move on to next week’s game against Arizona State.
“We just have to come back and think about our loss, but Monday we have to get over it and move on to the next game against Arizona,” Calabrese said. “We can’t keep thinking about this game or our season’s going to be done.”
Senior offensive lineman and co-captain Zack Martin said he has a good idea of what the team needs at this point.
“We’ve got a group of fighters, which is good, but right now we’re working on consistent execution,” Martin said. “We know we’re not going to be a good football team until we can do that, but at least the guys know what we have to and we just have to keep moving forward.”
Atkinson’s big day
All season, Notre Dame coaches have been trying to get junior running back George Atkinson III to run with authority.
Atkinson appears to be taking the advice to heart.
Saturday against Oklahoma, Atkinson had 150 yards on 14 carries with a TD, including an 80-yard TD scamper.
With five running backs vying for playing time in the Irish offensive backfield, the opportunity is there for one of them to make some plays and stand out.
Atkinson did just that on Saturday.
“Coach has been harping on me to run more physical, and sadly it had to take me until now to do it, but now I plan on just continuing and doing that. “ Atkinson said.
Getting to know the offensive linemen blocking for him has been a process, Atkinson said.
“Just trusting each other and believing in one another and just good preparation throughout the week,” Atkinson said.
Kelly said Atkinson can do that every week.
“We told him if he wanted to be the starter, that he can’t get tackled by his ankles. He can’t be the guy that goes down. He’s 220 pounds and I thought he ran the ball today like I expect George Atkinson to run the ball. He’s got to do that every week,” Kelly said “Wasn’t it fun to watch him run? That’s the way he should run each and every week. I think he’s capable of doing that, and we just need that from him consistently,” Kelly added.