Notre Dame football: Councell faces punishment for hit

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - Brennan Clay looked like he wasn’t going to catch the third-down pass anyway, but Notre Dame outside linebacker Ben Councell just wanted to be sure.

Councell’s jarring hit in the fourth quarter of No. 14 Oklahoma’s 35-21 conquest of the 22nd-ranked Irish Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, clearly helmet to helmet, left the Oklahoma running back temporarily woozy but carried more permanent consequences for Councell.

The junior from Asheville, N.C., was immediately ejected and will likely also have to sit out the first half of ND’s matchup next Saturday with Arizona State in Arlington, Texas, as a result of the NCAA’s new targeting rule. Councell is the first player in an ND game this season to be affected by the rule.

There is an appeals process in which ND could try to get Councell reinstated for next week’s game.

“I understand the rule,” Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson said. “I didn't think he (Councell) purposely did it. There's going to be those occurrences where it happens. They were crossing right in front of each other. They kind of ran into each other. I know he wouldn't do it purposely.”

Clay did return to action later in the fourth quarter.

Personnel matters

*After Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that starting defensive end Sheldon Day (ankle sprain) practiced all week and would be available to play Saturday, the sophomore sat out the entire game against the Sooners.

Senior nose guard Kona Schwenke slid over from his backup nose guard spot for the second week in a row.

*Freshman wide receiver William Fuller made his first collegiate start Saturday, and caught one pass for 11 yards.

Notable numbers

*Oklahoma has now won 37 successive games when leading at the half.

*The Irish were trying to extend their home winning streak to 11 games, the longest since a 19-game string that stretched from Sept. 19, 1987 to Sept. 29, 1990.

*ND’s streak of wins against Big 12 teams also came to an end. The Irish had won their last nine games versus current Big 12 teams (Texas in '95 and '96, West Virginia in '97, Baylor in '98, Kansas and Oklahoma in '99 and '12, West Virginia in '00 and '01).

Notre Dame's most recent defeat to a current Big 12 foe came on Jan. 1, 1970 in the Cotton Bowl, when top-ranked Texas edged the ninth-ranked Irish, 21-17.

*Kelly is 1-6 at Notre Dame and 15-25 in his career when his team allows a special teams or defensive touchdown.

*Saturday was the third three-interception game of Irish quarterback Tommy Rees’ career. He also had three against Tulsa and USC each in 2010.


*A couple of familiar faces from the Notre Dame football family returned to South Bend working for Oklahoma. Former Irish offensive coordinator Merv Johnson (1975-78) is Oklahoma’s director of football operations and analyst on OU football’s radio broadcasts. And former Irish strength and conditioning coordinator (1989-95) Jerry Schmidt is the Sooners’ director of sports enhancement.

*The Sugar Bowl reps in attendance Saturday included former Irish tight end Rod West, a member of the 1988 national championship team.

*Terry Brennan and more than 20 members of the 1957 ND football team were back on campus and honored Saturday. That Irish team, which finished 7-3, upended a No. 2-ranked Oklahoma team in Norman, 7-0, truncating the Sooners’ NCAA-record 47-game winning streak.

Notre Dame's Ben Councell collides with Oklahoma's Brennan Clay (24) during the Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma football game on Saturday, September 28, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Ben Councell was penalized for the hit. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN