Defense will be the key in OU-Notre Dame matchup
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, October 22, 2012
10/22/12 at 4:54 AM
NORMAN - Oklahoma-Notre Dame is packaged in glitz. There's a Golden Dome, a Great White Father. A couple iconic fight songs. A couple iconic programs, really, with histories as thick as molasses.
But when push comes to shove Saturday night at Owen Field - and it literally will - the game will be filthy. Just the way both teams like it.
"They're not giving up many points. We're not giving up many points," OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said after Saturday's annihilation of Kansas. "The team that plays the best defense is going to have the best chance to win. That's how we feel."
The Sooners like their chances.
Opponents have had the ball 42 times since OU's Sept. 22 loss to Kansas State. They have scored five touchdowns, with three coming against reserves.
Eighteen of those 42 possessions ended without a first down. Twenty-eight ended on OU's half of the field. Nine ended with turnovers.
Never mind points.
"We're making people have to earn it to get yards," Stoops said. "That's a good position to be in. That's when you feel very comfortable in what you're doing."
Stoops' secondary has been on lockdown since the season opener. What has happened since the Kansas State loss is the front seven have joined in.
Casey Walker's progress has fortified a defensive line that looked vulnerable against the run and slow in applying pressure during OU's 2-1 start.
Linebackers Tom Wort and Corey Nelson have covered more ground and made more plays. Stoops has found ways to use part-time linebackers Frank Shannon, Aaron Franklin and Joe Ibiloye.
Combined with the steady excellence of OU's six defensive backs, the group has played the kind of defense Stoops was used to seeing when he was coordinator from 1999-2003. The attitude is familiar as well.
"If you play great defense, you feel like you've got a chance to win every time you step on the field," Stoops said. "That's what our guys believe. That's gonna be the case next week. You're gonna have to play great defense when you play Notre Dame."
The Irish, see, aren't giving up much either.
They went 17 straight quarters without surrendering an offensive touchdown, until BYU scored twice in the second quarter Saturday. They haven't allowed a rushing touchdown all season - the only FBS team with that distinction - and they rank sixth in total defense nationally.
The Sooners have heard plenty about this, about Notre Dame stars like linebacker Manti Te'o and defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
"They've got all the talk about who's the best defense. They haven't allowed any rushing touchdowns and stuff," OU safety Tony Jefferson said.
"But next week we get to see who's the best defense. We've got 60 minutes to prove that. We look forward to the challenge."
"I think they're excited," Stoops said. "Again, you've got to play great defense to win, and I think our guys feel good about the challenge ... It's gonna be fun."
Vs. Notre Dame
7 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Expect a defensive display for OU-Irish
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Kenny Stills runs the ball against Kansas. The MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World