Oklahoma hammers Kansas, prepping for Irish
NORMAN, Okla. - The deep, long exhale came early on Saturday night inside Memorial Stadium.
Notre Dame won. Barely. 17-14 over BYU.
Yeah, the Sooners played Kansas, but by kickoff it was over, leaving the locals to officially start lathering up for next week's game of the week when the Irish come to town.
Good. We can stop pretending no one's looking ahead. Because we were. Admit it, you were, too, and so were the players and the coaches and the ticket scalpers. The good news is, Notre Dame did its part and the Sooners didn't forget to come out of the locker room at halftime.
That exacta hit, the Sooners won, 52-7, and it means unbeaten Notre Dame comes to Norman for a blue-gray October matchup that will be part storybook nostalgia, part BCS noteworthy and very important.
"Another really solid game," coach Bob Stoops said of the win over Kansas, needing not to expound.
"Now it's on to Notre Dame."
Yeah. We know.
Stoops called the game vs. the Irish the "most anticipated" since No. 1 Nebraska came to Norman to face the No. 2 Sooners in 2000, so if Oklahoma were looking ahead, that would have been OK and certainly would have been excused. Or if it were looking behind at last week's rout of Texas, that would have been understandable, too.
Because, sandwiched in between, was Kansas – a bye in shoulder pads. The Jayhawks offered little resistance, as OU went up 17-0 early into the second quarter, 38-0 at half and avoided any sort of "trap game" scenario. "We're starting to show maturity in how we come ready to compete," coach Bob Stoops said.
Going through the motions would have even been somewhat encouraged as well as good enough to beat this Kansas team, which came in winless in the conference and left without much of a fight. Even ESPN was looking ahead, sending out a tweet before halftime saying it would hold its weekly "Gameday" show in Norman a week from now. The only drama of the second half was completely synthetic, dreaming up possible guest pickers for the ESPN prediction show.
Meanwhile, the Sooners didn't go through the motions against Kansas. In fact, quarterback Landry Jones, who finished with 291 yards passing, going 19-for-28 with three touchdown passes, was still in the game late into the third quarter, despite a 52-0 lead.
And the Sooners defense didn't just show up, it mostly shut out. Make it four weeks in a row OU has impressed. It allowed just two first downs in the first half a week ago in the Cotton Bowl rout of Texas and just 41 points against Texas and Texas Tech combined the past two weeks. Twenty-one of those points came in the fourth quarter when OU's first-team defense was out of the game. Saturday, thanks to apathy or sympathy, no one really knows, Kansas scored with 3:11 left, saving a small degree of dignity.
That Sooners defense, beaten and gashed a season ago, now has nine takeaways the past three games after managing just one in the first three.
Receiver Justin Brown had a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown and running back Roy Finch had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the first time in school history the Sooners have scored on both a kickoff and punt.
Past that? Not much excitement, unless you're talking Notre Dame, who hung on to beat BYU at home, needing a fourth-quarter rally.
"Did they win?" asked Brown, who was either the only person of the 84,532 inside Memorial Stadium not to know or who has improved his acting skills along with his punt returning abilities. "I didn't know. That's good for them. All I worry about is the next game."
But for the rest of us who aren't burdened by the "refuse to look ahead" mantra offered up by coaches and anyone wearing a helmet, the Notre Dame game was the only thing on anyone's mind once the ball went up in the air.
"I definitely heard the score," cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "I'm glad they won. That will make the game more exciting."
Couldn't be much bigger as Notre Dame will come in unbeaten, 7-0 and ranked No. 5 in the country. OU is now 5-1, ranked No. 9 and very much alive in the BCS hunt.
Not that anyone in Sooners red was anticipating the match-up, anyway. Right?
"I wasn't paying attention to Notre Dame," safety Javon Harris said. "I'm being honest. I was focused on this game."
Well, that makes one of us.