Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was pleased with his team’s performance in a glorified Big 12 scrimmage against dreadful Kansas last Saturday in Norman, Okla. The 52-7 Sooners victory featured 406 yards of total offense, touchdowns on both a kickoff and punt return and no turnovers from quarterback Landry Jones.
But a ravenous Notre Dame defense heads to Memorial Stadium this weekend.
"It was a solid day and it leads us back home here hosting Notre Dame, an excellent program and a team that's really played well all year,” said Stoops, whose program improved to 5-1 and No. 8 in the Associated Press poll. “You look at them and you can tell the character of a team by seeing that they've won so many close, good football games. It's a team that on both sides of the ball plays very physical.
“… Defensively, a great linebacker out there in No. 5, [Manti] Te'o, and a great d-end, No. 7, [Stephon] Tuitt, is a really special player who has got a bunch of sacks for them. Also No. 2 in the secondary [Bennett Jackson] has got I believe four interceptions so those are some of their players that stand out. Again, an excellent program, a team that's undefeated, so it'll be exciting. It'll be a big challenge, but our guys will be excited and hopefully go through the week here like we do each and every week in how we prepare."
Wedged between Buffalo and UNLV is a Notre Dame offense ranked 73rd nationally in yards per game (387.9), but Stoops isn’t taking the Irish lightly.
“Offensively they use a couple of quarterbacks that give you a little bit of a different dimension and are both excellent at running their offense,” he said. “They've got some great tight ends and probably the best tight end in the country, number 80, [Tyler] Eifert, an excellent, excellent player. [Theo] Riddick, their running back, is also a guy that's made a ton of plays for them.”
Stoops boasts a solid defense, one that is 16th in the country in yards allowed (304.2 per game), with the only perceivable weak link being a rush defense that is surrendering around 140 yards per contest. Notre Dame is averaging roughly 194 rushing yards each week, including 150 in an overtime victory against Stanford and 270 versus Brigham Young — two of the better run-stopping defenses in college football.
“We're playing disciplined, we're playing physical, tackling well, our coverage has been excellent, so we have to continue to do it,” Stoops said. “This will be a big challenge with these guys, but I'm excited with the way they've been playing, sure."
It’s easy for Stoops to recognize what Irish coach Brian Kelly has managed to do in just his third season in South Bend.
“He's done a great job,” he said. “They have a lot of great athletes running around. You can see the structure in everything that they do in how disciplined it is, fundamentally sound it is, players play with great technique, so you can see the quality coaching.”