NORMAN, Okla. – Everett Golson threw for 177 yards and plunged in for the decisive 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, Manti Te’o bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy with a late interception and No. 5 Notre Dame beat No. 8 Oklahoma 30-13 on Saturday night to remain undefeated.
Te’o, the standout linebacker who has a penchant for causing turnovers, dived when Landry Jones’ pass ricocheted off Jalen Saunders and got his gloved hands under it. Kyle Brindza tacked on his third field goal soon after, and Theo Riddick added a late touchdown run as the Fighting Irish (8-0) put it away with 20 fourth-quarter points.
Jones threw for 356 yards with no touchdowns for the Sooners (5-2), who were still clinging to hope they could get back in the national title race before the loss. Saunders caught 15 passes for 181 yards.
Notre Dame is off to its best start in a decade, doing so as the only team in the country with four wins against Top 25 teams – including two on the road against top 10 foes.
Te’o and the second-ranked Irish defense frequently gave up underneath passes but prevented them from turning into big gains, making the Sooners snap the ball over and over while the Irish waited for a mistake that would snuff out the drive.
Oklahoma’s first two red zone possessions ended with field goals, and the Sooners turned to backup quarterback Blake Bell and their Belldozer short-yardage run package to finally punch one in and tie it at 13 with 9:10 remaining.
Golson, who had to come out for the final play of the third quarter after getting flattened by Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson, answered on the next play with a 50-yard post pass to freshman Chris Brown – his first career reception.
It took five more plays for Notre Dame to punch it in from the 15-yard line, with Golson taking a shotgun snap for a quarterback draw and diving into the line from the 1 for the score.
Jones tried to rally the Sooners, but linebacker Dan Fox slammed into Saunders as the pass arrived and Te’o – seemingly always around the ball – was right there to pick it off. The Irish, who were giving up just 9.4 points per game, haven’t allowed more than 17 in a game this season.
That remained true when an instant replay review wiped what appeared to be a 34-yard Jones-to-Kenny Stills touchdown pass off the board on the game’s final drive. Stills was called for offensive pass interference by shoving KeiVarae Russell down in the end zone on the next play, and Jones was sacked by Prince Shembo to deliver one final blow by the Irish defense.
It’s just the way we play, coach Brian Kelly said as the Irish celebrated, their marching band playing the school’s familiar victory march.
It took just two snaps for the Fighting Irish to respond to Michael Hunnicutt’s 28-yard field goal that opened the scoring in the first half.
Cierre Wood took a handoff and raced untouched right up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown, allowing the Fighting Irish to play from ahead as they have almost all season. Te’o racked up 11 tackles in the first half, plowing through Jones for his first sack to end one drive.