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September 25, 2013

OU’s Saunders recalls bitter taste from loss to Irish

NORMAN — Oklahoma wide receiver Jalen Saunders set a school record with 15 receptions last season against Notre Dame and set a career high with 181 receiving yards in the game.

Yet, he has a very sour taste in his mouth from the game. Midway through the fourth quarter, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s diving interception on a pass that tipped off Saunders’ hands was the highlight of the game. It helped fuel Te’o to a second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy balloting last season.

“I’ve seen that play a lot. It’s really disappointing and really hard to even watch,” Saunders said. “I’m ready for Notre Dame and to get back at them for that.”

The game truly was Saunders’ breakout performance. OU had 379 yards of total offense in that game. Just about half of it came on Saunders’’ receptions.

But receivers coach Jay Norvell was not surprised to hear Saunders’ feeling about that game.

“I think it was a real opportunity and we let it get away,” he said. “You really remember the ones that get away from you even more than the ones you win. I think Jalen had a real productive day, but at the end of it there was a real lack of satisfaction because we didn’t win.”

Holding up against the run: OU is currently 17th in the country in rushing defense, holding teams to 100.7 yards per game. OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops would love to see that average drop after the Notre Dame game, but he isn’t counting on it.

“We’ll see come Saturday. This is a different animal than what we’ve seen — the physicality that they play with, and they’re going to keep coming at you and try to wear you down as the game goes on,” he said. “This is a very physical test for us and we’re not going to sell out to try to stop the run and there’s got to be balance in there.”

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