Here's what we learned during Oklahoma's 35-21 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.
Blake Bell is a veteran: The Sooners coaches insisted they weren't concerned about the junior quarterback heading into his first-ever road start. Bell showed why against the Irish, looking poised, confident and unfazed by the environment. Bell accounted for 291 yards including 7.73 yards per pass attempt and 4.92 yards per carry. He consistently made the right play without making a big mistake. Look out Bryce Petty, Bell might be trying to take your place as the favorite to be All-Big 12 quarterback this season.
OU is mentally tougher than it was a year ago: There were times last season when OU got hit in the mouth and didn't respond. On Saturday, OU answered again and again when the Fighting Irish tried to gain any type of momentum in the second half. After George Atkinson III's 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, OU drove right down the field for a 27-yard Michael Hunnicutt field goal. After Tommy Rees's 30-yard touchdown pass to Troy Niklas, Bell found Sterling Shepard for a 54-yard touchdown pass to answer. The Sooners never really let ND take back the momentum after Corey Nelson's interception for a touchdown early in the game.
The Sooners defense is improved: There's no longer any doubt, OU's defense is much improved in 2013. Defensive ends Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom combined for 10 tackles, while defensive tackle Jordan Phillips held his own in the middle. And Frank Shannon and Nelson combined for nine tackles and two interceptions from the linebacker spot. Both positions struggled in OU's 30-13 loss to Notre Dame in 2012. More importantly, the Sooners defense is faster, more aggressive, more opportunistic and more versatile than last season. Welcome back, Mike Stoops.