NORMAN, Okla. -- Notre Dame's bid to go unbeaten and win the national championship this season picked up significant momentum Saturday, as the No. 5 Fighting Irish defeated the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners 30-13 at Owen Field.
The Irish are now 9-1 all-time against Oklahoma and an undefeated 5-0 in Norman, Okla.
Notre Dame continues its pursuit of an undefeated season and its first national championship since 1988 next Saturday when it hosts Pittsburgh. The Irish are 8-0 for the first time since 2002. Oklahoma falls to 5-2, with its national championship hopes all but ended.
With the Irish up by a touchdown late, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o dove to pick off Landry Jones' pass off a deflection. The pass was intended for Jalen Saunders, but Dan Fox hit Saunders as the ball arrived, popping up for Te'o to pick off. Notre Dame added a field goal and a touchdown late to turn what had been a close game into a relatively comfortable lead.
"It was a great play by Dan Fox there," Te'o said. "I was on the sidelines telling the coaches when they were reviewing it that they didn't need to worry. It bobbled around a little but I had it before it hit the ground."
The Sooners became the first team this season to score a rushing touchdown against the Irish, when Blake Bell scored from the one-yard line with 9:24 left to tie the game at 13-13. Notre Dame would then go on to outscore Oklahoma 17-0 to seal the win.
Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Everett Golson came up with several big plays during that run, including starting off that rally with a one-yard touchdown run by himself, drawing praise from Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
"I thought Everett Golson led our team tonight," Kelly said. "Tonight was a big step up for our quarterback."
As soon as the Sooners tied the game, Notre Dame went to work on both sides of the football. Golson hit Chris Brown for a 50-yard catch on the second play of the ensuing drive to kick start a possession that ended a few plays later on Golson's one-yard touchdown.
"I don't think six or seven weeks ago I could've done something like that," Golson said. "I didn't really have the same feel for the guys then."
He did against the Sooners, though, coming back after missing last week's game against BYU to complete 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards and, more importantly, kept the Fighting Irish from turning the ball over.
The end result is that Notre Dame is definitely in national-title contention, but they're more focused on next week's game against Pittsburgh than worrying about post-season play at this point.
"If we start listening to national championship and BCS talk, we will lose a football game," Kelly said. "This is a pretty smart bunch."
The Sooners rushed for just 15 yards. And, while Jones threw for 364 yards, the Irish defense kept him from throwing even one touchdown pass.
"That's always tough when you're not able to run it and when you throw it more than you want," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.
Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard added that Notre Dame's defense wasn't flashy, but it sure was effective when it needed to be.
"They played very vanilla defense all night," Ikard said. "They're just really talented guys, really strong. They have players that get off blocks well, and they stuffed us in the run game."
Notre Dame added a 46-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza and a 15-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left in the game by Theo Riddick to turn what had been a close game into a near-blowout.
NOTES: Oklahoma wide receiver Jalen Saunders, a Fresno State transfer who was granted eligibility for the year before the Sooners' Oct. 20 game vs. Kansas, set a school record with eight first-quarter catches. ... Te'o recorded his 400th career tackle late in the first quarter. ... Sooners' defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who had been suspended for the first six games for undisclosed violations of team rules returned to action, making his first appearance on Notre Dame's final drive of the opening quarter. ... Oklahoma took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, the first time Notre Dame has failed to score first this season. ... Notre Dame was without its top kick returner and one of its regular running backs as George Atkinson III did not make the trip due to the flu.