SOUTH BEND, Ind. —
One more chance to grab defeat from the jaws of victory and here it was.
Like 1999, the Sooners were off to a big lead before the game even seemed to start. Like last season, OU looked like the best team on the field until, really, about this point, when everything was ready to unravel, just as it had before.
So here it was, third-and-3 from the OU 46, more than a quarter since the Sooners had last converted a third down.
Except this was different.
This time, were the ball to be given back to the Irish, it would be the first time since Notre Dame’s opening possession it would have possession with a chance to take the lead,
Almost 13 minutes remained. An eternity.
It seemed like the whole game.
“Honestly, I was just trying to get the first down,” said Sterling Shepard, the Sooner receiver who still looks about 14 years old, but who’s become a man in opponent’s secondaries, giving OU a second No. 1 target alongside Jalen Saunders.
Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who’d always rather throw than run, called for the pass. Blake Bell, who’s completing more than 71 percent of his attempts, who seems incapable of throwing an interception, made the pass.
“I just put it out there for him and he did the rest,” Bell said.
It was a little pas thrown Shepard’s way that became a 54-yard touchdown and the play that beat Notre Dame, that handed the Sooners their 35-21 victory, that dashed demons, chased ghosts and may have had more than a few elderly Oklahomans weeping for joy.
Like Red Sox fans who never thought they’d cheer a world champion, 57 years later, they got to see the Sooners down the Irish.
Metaphysically, it might the biggest play of the Bob Stoops’ era. The coach isn’t much for history, but that’s what Saturday was about, OU beating a program it had only impossibly beaten once in 10 tries before.