Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21

Brian Sandalow, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Oklahoma defense forced three turnovers, Blake Bell had two touchdown passes, and the Sooners beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 35-21 on Saturday.
Oklahoma, 12th in the USA Today coaches poll, avenged its 30-13 loss last year to the Fighting Irish, and it did it after intercepting Tommy Rees three times and scoring a defensive touchdown, all in the first half. Corey Nelson kicked off the Oklahoma scoring just 49 seconds into the game when he returned an interception 24 yards, helping the Sooners beat Notre Dame for the first time since 1956.
Bell made his second start since taking over for Trevor Knight, and while he didn't thrive like he did in his first against Tulsa during a 51-20 win, he did enough for the Sooners (4-0). He was 22 of 30 passing with 232 yards and two scores.
Damien Williams also rushed for a score, and Lacoltan Bester and Sterling Shepard caught touchdown passes for the Sooners, who were playing on the road for the first time this season.
Rees and the Fighting Irish struggled in the first half, leading to the end of their 10-game home winning streak. George Atkinson III rushed for 148 yards and scored from 80 yards out, and Rees did have two touchdown passes for No. 22 Notre Dame, but he was intercepted three times in the first half and was 9 of 24 for 104 yards.
The Notre Dame defense's tough start to the season also continued. One year after giving up 12.8 points per game, the Fighting Irish (3-2) surrendered at least 24 for the third time in five contests.
And thanks to a Rees turnover, Oklahoma jumped ahead early.
Nelson intercepted Rees and returned it 24 yards for the touchdown 49 seconds into the game. And 1:35 after Rees' second interception, Williams scored from 11 yards away, giving Oklahoma a 14-0 lead.
Notre Dame, however, continued in the game's frenetic first quarter with a score of its own. Rees hit T.J. Jones in the back of the end zone with 4:03 remaining in the first quarter for a 6-yard score, cutting the Oklahoma lead to 14-7.
Oklahoma re-took a two-score lead following a Julian Wilson interception of Rees. After breaking the pocket, Bell floated a 26-yard touchdown pass to Bester with 42 seconds left in the quarter.
One thing the Notre Dame offense did well in the first half was run, gaining 112 yards. Atkinson's 80-yard score with 12:31 left in the third quarter continued that, giving the Irish their first running score from 80 yards or more since Terrance Howard in 2000 at West Virginia.
Oklahoma answered with two Michael Hunnicutt field goals to take a 27-14 lead, but Rees responded when he found an open Troy Niklas for a 30-yard touchdown with 14:10 left in the game.
But once again, the Notre Dame defense couldn't hold. On a 3rd-and-3 from the Oklahoma 46-yard line, Shepard caught a crossing pass over the middle from Bell and outran the defense for a 54-yard score.
NOTES: In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame linebacker Ben Councell was ejected for targeting Brennan Clay with his head, meaning Councell will miss the first half of the Irish's next game against Arizona State. ... Oklahoma is the first current Big 12 team to beat Notre Dame since Texas defeated the Fighting Irish in the 1970 Cotton Bowl. ... Freshman Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire took warmups before the game. Zaire has battled mononucleosis for most of the season. ... Nelson's first-quarter touchdown was Oklahoma's first on an interception return by a linebacker since Curtis Lofton against Utah State in 2007. ... Members of the 1957 Notre Dame team that beat Oklahoma 7-0, ending the Sooners' 47-game winning streak, were in attendance. That shutout was also the first against Oklahoma in 123 games. ... Representatives of the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers were at Notre Dame Stadium, along with ones from the Sugar Bowl.

What to Read Next