By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND —
Notre Dame and Oklahoma have not played each other much in recent years: When the No. 14 Sooners and No. 22 Fighting Irish take the field this afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium, it will be just the 11th meeting between the two schools.
And the Irish have dominated the relatively short series, winning nine of the 10 previous meetings.
But last year’s meeting sticks out in the minds of some of the Sooners: The Irish defeated Oklahoma, 30-13 in Norman en route to an undefeated regular season and berth in the BCS National Championship game against Alabama.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he expects to see an Irish team that’s very similar to last year’s squad, despite several key missing faces.
“Their schemes are all the same,” Stoops said during his regular press conference earlier this week. “They’ve got good athletes and are well disciplined in everything that they do. So I see them very similar, you know watching them, as they were a year ago.”
Stoops insists avenging that loss is not a primary focus for his team today at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Sooners (3-0) come to South Bend of a bye week: Their last game was a 51-20 victory over in-state rival Tulsa Sept. 14.
Oklahoma defensive co-captain Corey Nelson believes this year’s team is more equipped to play with Notre Dame than last year’s.
“It all depends on just how we execute both offensively and defensively,” Nelson said. “I feel like we’re prepared, though.”
Oklahoma junior quarterback Blake Bell last season scored the first rushing touchdown of the season against Notre Dame in the eighth game for the Fighting Irish.
The Sooners are hoping to get more production out of him today against the Irish. Blake passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Tulsa — his first career start.
One of the key matchups will be the Oklahoma offensive line vs. Notre Dame’s defensive line.
The Irish defensive front, anchored by nose guard Louis Nix, played a key role in holding the Sooners to 15 yards rushing last season — the seventh lowest total in Sooners’ history.
The biggest change on the Oklahoma line in 2013 is that Tyrus Thompson is the starting left tackle instead of Lane Johnson, the fourth overall pick by Philadelphia in the NFL draft last spring.
For Notre Dame, DE Sheldon Day has replaced Kapron Lewis-Moore.
Offensively, Notre Dame needs to rush the football more effectively: The Irish are averaging just 87 yards rushing over their past three games, and opponents are stacking the line of scrimmage, challenging the Irish to beat them with the pass.
After using four running backs last Saturday against Michigan State, Kelly said the Irish are considering adding freshman Greg Bryant to the mix this week against Oklahoma.
“We’re not where we want to be in terms of running the ball effectively throughout the game,” Kelly said.
Last year’s win over the Sooners was a major boost for the Irish as they gathered steam on their way to Miami.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the Irish believe they can do it again this season.
“They know that they can beat Oklahoma, but they know they’re going to have to play mistake free,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame will be looking to extend its home winning streak to 11 games ... Saturday’s game will be the 234th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium ... Notre Dame is 28-4-1 all-time against current members of the Big 12. The last loss came to Texas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1970 ... The Kelly Cares Foundation, Kelly’s charity, is encouraging fans to wear green to the game on Saturday. Kelly says the Irish will not be wearing green jerseys, which the Irish have done in years past in big games.