“Everybody’s more engaged, more so than ever,” linebacker Corey Nelson said. “We’re all running to the ball. That’s one thing that we did not do last season or maybe even the season before that, and if we don’t run to the ball, we get punished for it so that’s one thing that has changed and I see a lot of us doing.”
But the Sooners know what they face against No. 22 Notre Dame is going to be a higher level of football.
Yes, OU has run the ball much better this season. But in its 30-13 loss to the Fighting Irish last season, it only managed 15 yards on 24 carries.
“We’ve run the ball well as an offensive line this year, but this is the game that’s gonna determine where we’re at right now as an offensive line and the running phase of our offense,” center Gabe Ikard said. “It’s going to be a really tough test. We’re excited to see where we’re at.”
Defensively, the Sooners face a nearly identical test. OU gave up 17 points — the final margin — on three successive Notre Dame scoring drives in the final nine minutes of that game.
When it mattered most, OU’s defense couldn’t get any stops.
“This will be the biggest game and the most important game of the season thus far,” Nelson said. “It’ll show what our defense is really made of.”
Through three games, the Sooners have shown the traits of a tougher team capable of winning bruising games. Becoming that kind of team has been a goal since the calendar flipped to 2013.
But the only way to prove it is to win big games against elite competition. OU hasn’t faced a team at that level this season. That will change in six days at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. Win or lose, the Sooners will know more about who they really are after the game.
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