NORMAN — Notre Dame Stadium is one of the historic venues in American sports, but OU coach Bob Stoops said something like that is usually lost on football teams. The Sooners don’t take in many sites in a regular-season road trip.
“All we do is when we land, generally, we’ll take the team over to whatever stadium we’re playing at. They check their pads and make sure all their stuff’s there and we’re not missing something. Then we go out and do a little substitution deal on the field, so they’re a little familiar with the stadium. That’s it,” he said. “We don’t go on these trips to tour or go to wine country or anything else. We’re pretty much there to get ready to play.”
So, does that mean there won’t be any glimpses at “The Word of Life” mural (also known as “Touchdown Jesus”) or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (the golden dome) on the trip to campus Saturday?
“Nothing more cool about pulling up in a bus, walking into a bad visitor’s locker room and going on the field. We do it all the time. Believe me, I’m giving Notre Dame respect, I’m not discounting that, I’m just saying, as a coach, you’re not involved in that part of it,” Stoops said. “In other words, once you’re pulling up, you’re pulling up to compete. You just don’t think of those things, or you don’t really care about what the band may look like or anybody else. You just kinda get in your work mode and go.”
Reverse the trend: The Sooners meeting with Notre Dame will mark the 10th between the programs. OU has struggled mightily in those games, going 1-9 with one of the losses being the 7-0 loss in 1957 that ended OU’s historic 47-game winning streak.
Now, only two of the games (the Sooners’ 34-30 loss at Notre Dame in 1999 and last season’s 30-13 loss at Owen Field) have come in the players’ lifetimes.
Nonetheless, players know the history.
“That’s one of those streaks that you really don’t realize and it really doesn’t play much of a factor in the game or you don’t really think about it. You definitely hear from some of the older guys,” OU center Gabe Ikard said. “I remember last year we got a couple letters from some guys that played when the last time we beat them. I realize how important it is for the fans. We realize that this is one of those games that our fans are going to travel very well to and support us fully so I guarantee you we’ll work our hardest to try to come out with that one for everybody.”
Memories of South Bend: OU’s last trip to South Bend, Ind., ended with a 34-30 loss in a game it lead by 16 points in the second half. The loss was the first of Bob Stoops’ career and it’s one he hasn’t forgotten.
“I remember us leading in the third quarter by 16 and looking around and seeing too many happy faces,” he said. “Meaning, I felt there were too many guys who thought that they had this won. Really realizing that we had not really learned how to truly compete yet for four quarters. The realization, too, I remember telling the coaches in meetings the next day, listen, they hadn’t been to anybody like that on the road before. They don’t know how to handle it and we’ve got to teach them how to handle it. Teach them how to finish games and to win a game like that. Those guys hadn’t been in that situation.”
Personnel update: Stoops said the Sooners should be at full strength for Monday’s practice.
“I don’t know that we have one,” he said.
The two main players that missed practices last week were safety Gabe Lynn (leg injury) and backup quarterback Trevor Knight (knee). Both returned to practice Monday. Also, running back Damien Williams, who was suspended for the Tulsa game, will play against Notre Dame.
The defensive line also picked up some depth. Sophomore defensive end Mike Onuoha has been cleared to practice. He’s been out with a shoulder injury he suffered last spring.
Reversal of traits: One of the major differences in Oklahoma’s game with Notre Dame in 2012 was the quarterbacks. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson rushed for 64 yards in the game. Landry Jones was sacked twice and finished with minus-16 yard on the ground.
The game will feature different quarterbacks Saturday and the Sooners will be the team with a running quarterback. Blake has rushed for 55 yards this season to go along with 24 career rushing touchdowns.
“Our quarterback is different than what we’ve had the last couple years, yes,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “We have the ability with Blake to have more quarterback run game, or him having the opportunity to scramble a little better than some of the guys we’ve had in the past.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees has rushed minus-20 yards through four games.
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