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Morrissey: This Notre Dame team adding to lore of the Irish

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golsdid everything he needed do against Oklahoma. | AP

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson did everything he needed to do against Oklahoma. | AP

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:51AM



NORMAN, Okla. — From the moment they walked onto Notre Dame’s campus, the players had heard about the Four Horsemen, Touchdown Jesus, the Grotto and all the other Fighting Irish traditions — had, in fact, been hit over the head with them so much they might have thought their noggins were anvils.

But the winning of monumental football games, ah, that was a different animal. The only way the current team could have experienced that tradition was through a séance.

Then came Saturday night inside a roaring, energized stadium with a skeptical nation watching on TV. And No. 5 Notre Dame, a team that thought it belonged here but couldn’t have been sure, beat the eighth-ranked Sooners 30-13.

The Irish are 8-0, and their dream of playing for a national championship is a little less far-fetched than it might have been a week ago. With No. 2 Florida’s loss to Georgia on Saturday, the Irish figure to move up in the BCS rankings.

As the weeks went by this season, Notre Dame’s victories over Michigan and Michigan State didn’t look nearly as impressive as they once had. The victory over Stanford had been shaky. We wanted to see something else, something with substance, something that might suggest the Irish were going places they hadn’t been to in a long, long time.

More, please.

“More’’ arrived Saturday night.

“We haven’t in any way, shape or form arrived,’’ Notre Dame head coach Buzz Kill — I mean Brian Kelly — said. I’m sure he meant what he was saying. It’s just that the rest of us don’t have to listen to it. Not now, not after such a big game. The bus door opened, a bunch of players spilled out and the Irish arrived.

Lo and behold, it was Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, the subject of some doubts among Irish fans this season, who stood out. After the Sooners had tied the game 13-13 in the fourth quarter, he hit Chris Brown with a 50-yard completion, shushing a crowd that thought the momentum had swung its way. You saw a kid growing up in front of your eyes.

Golson scored on a keeper to get Notre Dame the lead back at 20-13.

All-everything linebacker Manti Te’o picked off a Landry Jones pass to make an Oklahoma comeback very, very difficult.

And kicker Kyle Brindza made a 46-yard field goal to put the game away.

That’s how big-time teams do it.

What stood out was how Notre Dame looked like it not only belonged but had a divine right to be there. It’s fair to say there was a large number of people who thought their ranking was inflated.

“I’m sure there was definitely skepticism,’’ safety Zeke Motta said. “I didn’t really pay attention to too much of the outside stuff. I did hear some things like we were a 12-point underdog before the game starts. … All you can do is play against the odds and do what we do and show the world what we’re capable of.’’

Consider the world notified.

Golson has had his troubles this season, but he looked in charge of his team and in control of himself here.

“I thought [Saturday night] was a big step for our quarterback,’’ Kelly said.

Early on, it looked as if the Sooners were going to roll over Notre Dame, provided they could successfully snap the ball to their quarterback. On their first drive, they suffered the indignity of a 19-yard loss when there was a miscommunication, and the snap from center Gabe Ikard went flying past Landry Jones. You can call that the luck of the Irish or the brain lock of the Sooners.

Notre Dame’s Cierre Wood had a 62-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, notable because no Sooner defender was there to meet him when he blew through a huge hole. It was as if he had gone on a walkabout in the Australian outback.

Oklahoma had averaged 52 points in their three previous games. Coming into the game, opponents had scored only 9.4 points per game against Notre Dame, putting the Irish second in the country in scoring defense. Something, as they say, had to give.

Turns out it was Oklahoma.

“We put a lot of work into getting to this point, but it doesn’t stop here,’’ tight end Tyler Eifert said.

There are a lot more people who believe that now than there were when the evening started.



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