NORMAN — It was the most anticipated game of the season for Oklahoma. No. 5 Notre Dame visiting Memorial Field for the first since 1966, the eyes of the college football world were upon them.
Instead of coming out with their best performance of the year, the eighth-ranked Sooners once again fell short on the big stage with a 30-13 loss to the Irish Saturday.
“It sucks,” Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson said. “This one hurts. But we have to show some character and turn it around. We have still have five games left.”
The loss likely kills any chances OU had of making a run at a BCS title. But it’s the fact they didn’t play their best when the nation was watching that really upsets the Sooners.
“Just real disappointed that we lost,” senior Tom Wort said. “It hurts as much as any loss. But to see them celebrate on your field at the end of the game, that’s what hurts the most.”
Before the game even started, the campus of the University of Oklahoma had transformed into a mini city with OU and Notre Dame fans flooding Norman from across the country.
“It really is special,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “There were students camping out here last night. The excitement is everywhere. The town is buzzing. We’ve always had maybe the third biggest city in the state on game days normally. But I think we’re going to more than double the population that we normally have. Just because of the amount of people who have come just to be part of the atmosphere.”
Part of the excitement revolved around the return of ESPN College GameDay. It had been four years since the show had profiled a game from Norman and thousands of students and fans packed the South Oval to be part of the 3-hour show Saturday morning.
From the unique signs fans made, to Kings of Leon being the celebrity guest on stage, the Sooner nation took it all in. But it was GameDay analyst Lee Corso who brought the house down when he picked Oklahoma to win before shooting off an Oklahoma ruffneck gun.
“This is great,” GameDay host Chris Fowler said. “This is by far the best location ever at Oklahoma. Good turnout from the people. I think it all built to a good moment. I think they were all expecting Mr. Corso to pick Oklahoma. But the payoff is fun. It’s nice to be back here. It’ been four years. It was the capital of college football today. We are happy to be here.”
But the main attraction was the game itself. Fans who remembered Oklahoma’s 47-game-win streak coming to an end with the Irish in 1957 made their way to the game. As did young Sooner fans who had no idea the teams had such a long history between them.
Oklahoma City native Chris Turner brought his one-year-old son to his first game just so he could see the Sooners play the Irish at home.
“We love it,” Turner said. “I’m actually bringing my son down here for the first time. GameDay is here. First time in four years. It’s the biggest game in decades probably here in Norman. It’s very special.”
The game’s significance was not lost on Castiglione.
“You have ESPN GameDay here. The college football world is focused on Norman, OK. We are trying to do everything we possibly can to showcase this great university and what actually goes on here that more people need to know about. The fans have really stepped up. As they say, they have come to represent. Trying to show the world how special the University of Oklahoma really is.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @email@example.com