COACH STOOPS: First, I'd like to compliment Coach Kelly and his staff, the Notre Dame football team, a really hard‑played, tough football game. You know, again, compliments to them. I think they do an incredible job in every part of their football team. So we knew we'd have to play well to have a chance to operate here and win.
Fortunately, we did. I'm really pleased and excited about the way we played. First, offensively, no turnovers. I thought our offensive line was super because they're a great defensive front and great defensive team. But I thought our guys really blocked well. I don't know if we had a sack, or if we did, not many. I guess we had one for five yards. Protected the ball well, Blake Bell was again, great. Threw the ball very well. Receivers got open, running backs in line. We ran the football well. So it was what you want.
Offensively, used the clock. Defensively, we came up with a huge first quarter forcing the turnovers. They're going to make their plays and they did. They popped the one run and then they had two other drives, but I thought we had a lot of good series where there were three‑and‑outs, and in particular down on the end. A year ago I thought we lost the game in the last half of the fourth quarter, and we were determined not to let that happen this time because it was still a two‑possession game. We came up with stops defensively. Just good, overall play.
Anyway, it was a good, well‑played game and just gives us a little bit of a springboard to start the Big 12 season again since we only had one game in the Big 12.
Q. Can you talk about Blake, not just the way he threw, but seeing his decision making was excellent. Didn't even come close to an interception. Can you talk about the fieldsmanship he showed?
COACH STOOPS: He did. He was really sharp. He put the ball where it needed to be, finding the right guys, going through his reads. And give credit to the line to give them the opportunity to find those guys, so I thought he played great.
Q. The play, the touchdown to Sterling Shepard, that came out of what used to be known as a big power formation. Can you talk about the deception factor there and how it worked to your advantage?
COACH STOOPS: I think you're always, anybody that, just as they did, they'd lineup in two tight ends and big formations. When we do, we may have them in the back field, but we've got big blockers in are there, the ideal. They hit us on one play action pass, the touchdown to the tight end. Same thing we're trying to do. When you can run the football in those sets, people have to start trickling down from the secondary to stop the run. Generally, you can find some space to make big plays. Fortunately, we caught one, meaning we found one and hit it.
Q. You hit the field wide side for a lot of short passes and run after the catch. Is that something you saw early on paper? Or did you just want to get it to your play makers?
COACH STOOPS: Those are long handoffs. All those plays we're throwing it out. They're called runs. They're not designed as passes, they're called runs. And the way they're defending it, they're weak out there to stop the run. That's the game you play. Sometimes you get them right. Blake threw those with good precision. I'm really proud of our receivers and how they blocked out there to get those seven, eight. Those are long handoffs. To us, those are run yardage.
Q. Can you talk about the dream‑like start with the two turnovers in the first 2:45 and you are up 2‑0 and boom, boom, can you expand on those situations and what you saw?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know about a dream‑like start, but a good start. I was proud of our guys. We came out aggressive. Mike called a blitz right there in the early part the first third down and we caught him with it, and Eric Striker is fast. Got to the quarterback. Knocked it right to Corey. So we started fast.
Aaron Colvin deflected the one to Frank Shannon with tight coverage, so they came out aggressive and ready to play.
Q. Can you talk about overall your toughness, where you think you are from a toughness standpoint and also Bell turning and scrambling for yardage and just making some plays with his legs?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Blake can make those kind of plays. I don't want to say he's like Roethlisberger, but you're not going to drag him down if you just have his shirt. He can get away from some things and make some positive yards off of some scrambles. I love that he bought time to find Lacoltan Bester in the end zone. He was going to run, and then saw it break open and threw it to him late in the play.
Toughness‑wise, I feel like we can play physical football. I don't believe that was how we lost a year ago. We lost on a deep pass in the fourth quarter in a turnover, and in some instances that they made some key plays in the game a year ago. You know, so in the end, they're still a tough football team even though they're on the wrong side of it. And they're going to have a good year. I'm sure they will.
Q. They went to your house last year and upset you guys. How important was it to come here and return the favor?
COACH STOOPS: I'm not much on revenge. To me, all you're talking about is revenge you're not giving the other team enough respect for coming in and beating you. That's something you say how could they beat us? You know why they beat us a year ago? They beat about everybody until the last game. So we respected that. There wasn't any talk of revenge. It was about what are some of the things we did wrong a year ago that we can be better at and how can we finish the game better?
We talked all week about playing a great fourth quarter and I felt like we did. We won it 8‑7. We didn't win it by a big number, but we win it in a two‑possession game and defense went out toward the end and cut him off. Then offense, loved it. Runs the last five minutes of the game out or more. Might have been near six minutes, and they run the clock out to finish it.
Q. To come in here, 80,000 fans and have your team respond really well, how important was that to see that early in the game too?
COACH STOOPS: The fans we didn't feel ‑‑ I don't say it a lot, but I didn't feel that was an issue. They're not playing. In the end, it's what are we doing right, how are we handling the situations and operating between the lines? That's all we talk about. I thought we handled everything really well. Offensively we didn't have hardly any procedures or line of scrimmage issues, so communication issues, whatsoever.
Q. Your defenses have always been good about taking advantage of opportunities. You made several things happen that you pointed out in the first quarter. Defensive secondary had the hands on the football a lot. How much did that play a part because they could never get things going in the passing play outside of that one play?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, they came right out like they did the week before against Michigan State throwing the fade on Sanchez. He couldn't have played better. He went up, knocked it away. A young guy that's playing better and better, and then Aaron Colvin with tight coverage gets the deflection. Those guys are covering really well, playing great, we did.
We had a hard time throwing the football for the most part, and I was proud of our guys the way they handled it.
Q. The first touchdown, did you have a flash back moment to Roy Williams and Teddy Layman 13 years ago at the Cotton Bowl the way that happened? Did you think about it? And yourself, a Catholic kid from not too far away coming in here ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: An Irish Catholic kid. I've got six kids in the family, you know we're Irish, right?
Q. Do you take some personal satisfaction from today?
COACH STOOPS: I don't take anything personally. To me, I didn't play today. My players played, and got a bunch of coaches all coaching, so we all take pride in it together. I've got a lot of family here, so I can't deny with all the family here there is not a place you come to every year. Got to admit we were here in '99 and that's still a little bit of a sore spot that we were up 16 and lost. We were pretty determined not to let that happen again. Fortunately, it ended up the right way for us.
Q. You see a lot of defensive guys from time to time go in the locker room and get fluid. You don't see a lot of quarterbacks do that. When you guys came out and you were looking for a little momentum switch there, but to do it with his arm after he had been in there cramping?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, he really responded. Coach Heupel was so mad like, really, you're cramming? He said he's never had a cramp. So obviously, it's something we have to be more aware of moving on down the road here. Otherwise we could have gassed him up at halftime. For whatever reason, we didn't. He didn't tell anyone and we didn't know it was an issue or we would have. We do that, you know.
When guys are starting to have those feelings at halftime, we'll load them up here and there. Not a bunch, but when the ones who need it, and we didn't do it. That was an error on our part.
Q. Could you talk about the communication you were getting? Were you getting reports back when he was in there? I know Trevor was warming back up?
COACH STOOPS: No, we were realizing it, and when he went down, we could tell that's what it was. So we started our operation trying to get it straightened out.
I'm proud of Trevor. He came in and had some big plays and did well.
Q. What did you learn about the potential of your team for this season after a performance like this?
COACH STOOPS: We've got a chance to continue to be really good. But we're a work in progress. It's only our fourth game. We've got a lot of young guys playing, in particular for sure on defense. But they're getting better and better the more we play. Blake Bell, obviously, has shown. That was a question mark coming into the year. He's shown the ability to really play at home really well and play on the road really well. That is encouraging as we go down in the conference play here for the rest of the year.
Q. That was the first time Notre Dame had shown that complementary quarterback look. It looked like you guys handled it pretty well. Could you just talk about that?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, you come in, and he was able to run some in the zone read, but fortunately we see it every day with Trevor Knight and Blake Bell. We go against each other. Like last week, we go against each other almost every day. So we're pretty used to it. Even though we didn't prepare for it for them, we're used to seeing it, how we go about defending it.
Q. Last year, Atkinson wasn't able to make the trip to Oklahoma. Just your impressions of him today?
COACH STOOPS: Really good, powerful guy, fast. Hit that crease. Really a good football player.
Q. You made a whole lot of older Oklahoma ans happy today. Exorcising a lot of ghosts. Now that the game is over, can you speak to whether you've gained some satisfaction at least?
COACH STOOPS: The question posed to me earlier in the week was do I have to carry that burden into the game and my team? And I said absolutely not. We weren't a part of all of those. I don't want my players having to avenge anything. That isn't what we do. Now that it's happened this way, I'm pleased. I'm sure I'm glad for the older Oklahomans that have been through all those games and Notre Dame had beaten us, that we get some level of satisfaction winning this one. Who knows when we'll play again. So they can live it up and say we got you last until we go again.
Anyway, I'm not naive to the fact that I understand and I respect that, and I respect all our old players and guys that have been in those games. I'm sure they're pleased with it. I'm pleased with them. But I'm never carrying the burden of somebody else's woes coming into a game or want my players ever having to deal with it.
Blake Bell • Jr. • Quarterback
On the significance of this win against Notre Dame…
"This is a big time for us. Just getting our first win on the road is big for us going into this next week, preparing for TCU. It’s big time.”
On leaving the game and returning…
“I was cramping up, and that’s never really happened to me, so I don’t really know what to say about that. But getting back out there, I felt like we came back and Shep [Sterling Shepherd] had a really nice route and completion, and we ended up scoring.”
Trevor Knight • Fr. • Quarterback
On getting back on the field…
"It was good. I’ve been out of it for the first time in my life—for a couple of weeks—and Coach Heupel always stresses that you’ve got to be ready for when it’s your time. You never know when it’s going to happen, so I just stayed ready and played my best.”
On the significance of this win leading to a potential championship…
“As you go throughout the season, there are those signature wins that you pick up and you have to take it one day at a time. We got this one tonight, but we’ve got to move on, we’ve got a big conference name next weekend against a really good TCU team. You’ve got to take it one game at a time, one week at a time.”
Brennan Clay • Sr. • Halfback
On the significance of the win…
“It feels really good. I’m so proud of myself. We went hard, and we emphasized the whole week on finishing in the fourth quarter. We did a great job up front with the whole line.”
On staying consistent throughout the game…
“Big 10 football is all about being able to pound the ball, and even though they were big upfront, we knew it was going to be a challenge. They do a great job run-stopping the ball, and we did a great job pounding. We were having faith in our system, and we started breaking some good ones.”
Geneo Grissom • Jr. • Defensive End
On winning on the road at Notre Dame…
“It feels great, there’s so much tradition. I think I heard something about how we haven’t beat Notre Dame in 57 years, so to come out here to beat them for the first time in a long time in their house—it feels great. It gives me a lot of confidence with this defense and where we’re going.”
On how this game differs from last year’s in regards to the BCS race…
“The sky’s the limit with this team. I have a lot of confidence in these guys—it’s a great honor to play with these guys. I am really proud of these guys. We put in a lot of work, and it’s just starting to pay off.”
On the atmosphere of the game…
“Games like this are why we sign that paper coming out of high school. It’s a huge game not only for myself, but for my team and the program. So it feels really good. All week we knew we had to be physical with these guys. We knew they weren’t going away no matter what the score was, so we knew we’d have to be physical for four quarters.”
Sterling Shepard • So. • Receiver
On his touchdown…
“I was just trying to fight to get open. I was trying to do that the whole game. I knew it was going to come. I just had to be patient, and it came. So when I caught the ball, I just tried to get into the end zone.”
On the effect last year had on this game…
“We definitely had a big chip on our shoulder. We tried to stress just to keep pushing in the fourth quarter and finish the game off.”
On third down failures leading to big plays…
“I feel like that is one thing we need to work on in practice, third and long and third and short. Those are critical things to stay on the field. I don’t know if it was to clinch the game, but it was a big one.”
Corey Nelson ● Sr. ● Linebacker
On returning the ball on the first interception…
“It was more just instincts. I didn’t even know I had a clear shot. It was more just instincts and me just doing what I have to do as a football player. I just kind of did it unconsciously.”
On how he felt opening minute at Notre Dame Stadium…
“One of the best experiences I will ever have my entire life. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling. Words can’t even describe how the whole defense and offense has made history.”
On playing a tough opponent like Notre Dame…
“We have to continue to get better from here. This is just the start. We continue to remain humble and hungry. This is just the start for it all. Today did show a lot for what we are capable of as a defense.”
Julian Wilson ● Jr. ● Defensive Back
On how the defense played in the fourth quarter…
“Make plays. That was the big emphasis this week. We got to make plays and we got to win the fourth quarter. Last year, it was when they pulled away from us, so this year, our big phrase is finishing the fourth quarter. Win every fourth quarter and every game.”
On getting their first win against Notre Dame in over 50 years…
“We’ve really just got to keep working to get OU where it deserves to be. Right now, we’re the underdogs, and I really think we take a lot of disrespect to that because people don’t respect us as players or as a team. We really just come out there with a chip on our shoulder with something to prove every Saturday.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly
COACH KELLY: Well, disappointing day, obviously. I'm proud of our guys in the second half and the way they competed and mounted a spirited second half in the way we competed and got back to doing what we needed to do. But trying to overcome those two crucial turnovers in the first half, the three in total, but obviously the interception return and certainly the interceptions in the first half were crucial and the sack fumble.
You spot a great team like Oklahoma 14 points, you're putting yourself in a tough situation. Hat's off to Oklahoma. I thought they played extremely well. Coach Stoops and his staff, we have a lot of respect for them. The way they compete, a class organization and a team and a program that we really enjoyed competing against. It's a program that we really enjoyed the home at home with them.
Again, our goal here was to certainly try to find a way to run the football more effectively and we were able to do that. Again, I think I go back to the turnovers for us were too much to overcome. So with that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q. Could you sort of evaluate your rush offense today, kind of getting that on track, and what you felt like you got out of Tommy today turnovers and completion percentage?
COACH KELLY: Well, I mean, it's all part of it. It's running the football effectively and then we don't want to put Tommy in a position where he's got to carry the whole load. So we thought that the second half we were able to get into a position where we ran the football, play‑action pass, some quick throws. That's how we want to play.
We don't want to put this whole thing on Tommy. It's everybody. We always go back to the quarterback around here. But this is about 11 players. We don't execute on the offensive line and the first fumble. We don't run the right route. I mean, it's natural for everybody to go back to the quarterback, but there are 11 players out there. So we just have to do a better job of taking care of the football.
Q. You guys lose your second game this early in the season. The talk all off‑season was making it back to a BCS game, how much in jeopardy is that now?
COACH KELLY: Don't really care about that stuff. That's for you guys to talk about. I've got a football team here we're trying to develop and work with. You guys can have your own comments and decide what that means and you can put us in whatever Bowl you want.
We're dealing with our players. We've got to coach better, we've got to develop our players better, and we'll let you guys decide what that means.
Q. You got a zone read look from Andrew Hendrix today. What brought that package out today and how do you think he played?
COACH KELLY: You know, we're just trying to diversify the offense a little bit, trying to add some more looks. He's got some work to do. We've got to continue to work with him, but I think it gives us some things that the defense has to defend as well with him in there.
Q. Last week you talked a little bit about getting off to that quick start with your team, how it's been a little bit of a problem. Is there something that you see that you diagnosed why they've had a little trouble out of the gates?
COACH KELLY: Look, if I knew what that was, I would not be standing here right now. I'd be doing something else. This is my 23rd year as a head coach. You never expect to not pick up the simplest of stunts and have your quarterback get the ball stripped. You never expect not to run the right route when you're supposed to. You never expect those things, but they happen. That's why we have ulcers in this business. So you go back, you've got to be communicating. Because, ultimately, it falls on me. We lost today, so that goes in the ledger as a loss. So we've got to go back and communicate better. We didn't do a good enough job communicating. We've got to coach better. We have to do a better job in making sure that those things don't happen again?
Q. George for a bright spot had kind of a big game today. Was that how you expected him to run when he came into this season?
COACH KELLY: We didn't think George ran physical enough. We told him that. We told him if he wanted to be the starter, that he can't get tackled by his ankles. He can't be the guy that goes down. He's 220 pounds and I thought he ran the ball today like I expect George Atkinson to run the ball. He's got to do that every week. He shouldn't be tackled by his ankles, and he showed that today, and I hope he brings that game with him each and every week because it was sure fun to watch George Atkinson run today. Wasn't it fun to watch him run? That's the way he should run each and every week. I think he's capable of doing that, and we just need that from him consistently.
Q. 43 seconds to go in the second quarter, you're down two scores, first and ten at the 20, you have three timeouts and the wind at your back. The decision to just go into the formation to down the ball and not try to maybe get a field goal in that situation?
COACH KELLY: 43 seconds wasn't enough time in my estimation.
Q. How difficult was the beginning in order to follow your original offensive scheme? And in this offensive scheme, did you contemplate to use more Troy Niklas and Ben Coyack?
COACH KELLY: No, we didn't abandon anything down 14‑0. We stayed with our game plan. We didn't abandon anything. We stayed with it, and we moved Hendrix into the game. I thought we stayed within ourselves, got another score on the board. Didn't change much at all. Thought we stayed patient with it.
Q. You guys are going to the AT&T Stadium. Two weeks ago the one team from Mexico, the Monterey technological they played at AT&T Stadium two weeks ago. They beat Texas A&M 40‑37 in triple overtime. Despite the logistics, would you appreciate or would you like to have in the same weekend one type of these games of the Mexican game at the AT&T Stadium next to like a Notre Dame game or in the same weekend?
COACH KELLY: Sure.
Q. Two losses before the end of September is probably two more than you guys hoped for. You had high expectations. What do you drill upon now to make sure they're in a good space going forward? What do you drill down on X's and O's‑wise going forward?
COACH KELLY: I don't think there is anything really in terms of X's and O's. I think what you saw out there is we have to play better individually, collectively, unit‑wise across the board. I think we have to coach better. We have to communicate better. I think this is just about us and we more than it is about two losses, three losses, four losses, and just keep developing our football team to play better collectively as a unit, a group, individually. The guys that you saw out on the field are the guys that we have. We have to get them to play better consistently.
As I said, I'm really proud of the way they competed in the second half. Our defense was salty when they needed to be. I thought we gave up one play that we'd love to have back. You know, the quick slant where we let Shepard inside. Just something that shouldn't happen.
Other than that, we were doing a really good job defensively against a very good offense. Again, could have, would have, should have for us. We're close, we're not there yet. We have some work we need to continue to build on.
Q. Sometimes after an emotional loss, it fuels the team to be better, and sometimes it kind of pulls at the seams. What did you see from your team after this game?
COACH KELLY: Nothing of consequence other than disappointment in the loss and the recognition that as a group we all need to get better, and they're all accountable. This is a group that each one of them knows why we lost the game. Each coach, each player in that locker room. This is a transparent group. There is nobody in there that is pointing a finger. There are only thumb pointers in there. We're four years into our program. We know clearly what needs to be done. We'll get back to work on Tuesday and work to get better.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you know, it's not just the quarterback, it's everybody. What do you want to see from this offense now that the running game came through? What is the answer to get the offense going?
COACH KELLY: Well, run the football and stay out of predictable situations. We're down 14 points, and I've got to go five wide receivers against a really good defense that matches up well against teams that do that. This defense was built to do the thing that's we were doing down 14 points. That's what I didn't want to. I wanted to be in two tight ends and I wanted to run the football, and I wanted to run play action and I wanted to be able to control the game that way.
We got down, uncharacteristically, threw the ball away, had sacks, and those aren't what we do. That's not going to be our prescription for success. So offensively, you just can't turn the football over the way we did. If you take care of the football, we might be in overtime right now. Who knows?
But the bottom line from this offense is take care of the football, play good defense, and these kids will battle their butts off and find a way to win.
Q. In regards to the Hendrix package, is there something specific you saw in Oklahoma's defense that you wanted to counter? Was there an opportunity that brought it out this week?
COACH KELLY: No, there was nothing in the Oklahoma package other than we wanted to be a little more diversified, help our third down package. Make sure that now you have to defend the quarterback, and really just simply give us some more options in third and short. As you know, we struggled in some third‑and‑short situations. So that was primarily the reason.