Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Updated: September 28, 2013 6:13PM
South Bend, Ind. – Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker came around the right side completely untouched and rocked Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees.
The ball floated in the air and right in the hands of Oklahoma’s Corey Nelson. The linebacker returned the interception 24 yards for a touchdown.
And that was just Notre Dame’s third play from scrimmage.
The No. 14 Sooners intercepted Rees three times on the way to defeating the No. 22 Irish 35-21 Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame got within six points early in the fourth quarter. But Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard turned a short completion into a 54-yard touchdown as the Sooners pulled away.
Turnovers really made the difference.
Rees entered the game with just two interceptions this season. He had two in his first three pass attempts against the Sooners (4-0).
He had little chance to react on the first. Striker had an easy path to the backfield and clobbered Rees from behind. The ball came loose and went to Nelson, who raced to the end zone for the touchdown.
Rees threw a pass to a TJ Jones on Notre Dame’s next play from scrimmage. It was high. Jones tipped the ball in the air and Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon bobbled it before holding on for an interception.
The Sooners needed four plays to increase their lead. Damian Williams scored on an 11-yard run, making it 14-0 with 12:15 left in the first quarter.
Notre Dame (3-2) used a combination of Rees and backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix to get back in the game. The Irish also got a lift from their running game.
Notre Dame went 80 yards in 10 plays on the way to scoring its first points. Rees completed a 9-yard pass to Jones to cut Oklahoma’s lead to 14-7 with 4:03 to go in the first quarter.
The score remained that way until late in the first half.
Notre Dame drove to Oklahoma’s 24 when Julian Wilson intercepted a tipped pass.
The Sooners made the Irish pay for the mistake, going 88 yards in 10 plays. Bell threw a 26-yard touchdown to Lacoltan Bester with 42 seconds left in the second quarter. Oklahoma went to halftime leading 21-7.
George Atkinson III gave the Irish a burst on their first series of the second half. The running back found a hole and went 80 yards for a rushing touchdown.
Just like that, it was 21-14.
Oklahoma answered in its next possession with a 27-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicutt. The Sooners added a 19-yard field goal to stretch their lead to 27-14 with 2:43 to go in the third quarter.
Rees completed a 30-yard pass to tight end Troy Niklas to get Notre Dame within 27-21 early in the fourth quarter. Shepard then provided his game-clinching 54-yard catch and run, as Notre Dame’s 10-game winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium came to an end.