First-down success sparks Sooners

Oklahoma earned national respect and redemption with its 35-21 win over Notre Dame on Saturday. The Fighting Irish provided a test the Sooners had not seen this season, and OU passed with flying colors. Here's a look at five stats that helped spark OU to its best non-conference win this season.

Three turnovers: Make no mistake, the Sooners won the game thanks to their plus-3 turnover margin. Linebacker Corey Nelson immediately turned the momentum in the Sooners’ favor with his 24-yard interception return for touchdown to start the scoring and OU never looked back. The Sooners weren’t great on third down (5-of-14) or in the red zone (1 of 4 touchdown conversions), yet they were able to overcome it because they won the turnover battle. Since 2004, OU has forced three turnovers on 45 occasions, winning 40 of those games.

First down yards per play average: OU averaged 6.76 yards per play on first down. The Sooners did it with terrific balance, averaging 5.89 yards per carry while quarterback Blake Bell was 13 of 16 for 124 yards and one touchdown on first down against the Irish. Heading into the game it was clear first-down success would be important, and the Sooners excelled with 18 carries for 106 yards and 7.8 yards per pass attempt on first-down plays. Their success on first down made second and third down a lot easier.

Blake Bell 12 carries: The Sooners quarterback had the second-most carries on the squad in the win over the Irish. Not all of those runs were planned. Regardless, Bell’s ability to be a threat running the ball -- 12 carries for 59 yards -- made OU’s offense harder to stop.

Notre Dame’s 4.16 yards per pass attempt: The Sooners' secondary was superb against ND. Cornerback Aaron Colvin returned after missing the Tulsa game and played like an All-Big 12 performer, cornerback Zack Sanchez held up well in his first career road game, and nickelback Julian Wilson and safety Quentin Hayes each had solid performances. OU’s secondary has gone from question mark to strength during September.

Sooners’ time of possession in the fourth quarter: OU had the ball for 12:11 in the final quarter. The Sooners emphasized the fourth quarter throughout the week and clearly came out on top in the final 15 minutes, including 16 carries for 52 yards. While not stellar rushing numbers, OU did enough on the ground to keep ND off the field and limit the home team's chance to mount a comeback.