SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Heisman Trophy winners and national champions. One historic blowout. One historic upset. One of the most memorable collisions in college football history.
Notre Dame and Oklahoma have not played often, but they have produced some classics — most won by the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame leads the series 8-1. No team has had as much success against the Sooners having played at least that many games.
“It’s a great trivia question because most people would be astounded,” said Jay Wilkinson, son of Bud Wilkinson, who coached the Sooners to three national championships in the 1950s.
The Sooners were ranked in the top 10 in six of those games, while the Irish were in the top 10 four times.
They are both in the top 10 again, and set to play for the first time since 1999 on Saturday night in Norman.
No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1) will try to hand No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) its first loss of the season and derail the Irish’s national championship hopes.
The most memorable game between the two featured just one touchdown.
The Irish came into that 1957 game off consecutive losses to Navy and Michigan State, and arrived in Norman, as 18-point underdogs.
“I think deep down we thought we were going to get our fannies kicked,” said Dick Prendergast, an end on the Irish team, now a 75-year-old periodontist in Long Grove, Ill.
But he said the Irish, coached by Terry Brennan, were inspired by two things. When they arrived in Norman, they saw signs saying the Irish had no chance against the Sooners. Then when they went to the hotel in Oklahoma City, they were greeted warmly by the manager until he saw Notre Dame had a black player, halfback Aubrey Lewis.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t have you as guests here.’ Everyone shut up. We wanted to know what he meant by that. He said, ‘Well, we don’t tolerate blacks,”’ Prendergast said.