Notre Dame against Oklahoma State, in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State junior quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) scrambles on a keeper against Notre Dame, in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Saturday, January 1, 2022, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. 

Oklahoma State’s track record at the Fiesta Bowl speaks for itself.

The Cowboys have only descended upon the Valley twice in program history but have come away with wins on both occasions. In 1974, Oklahoma State knocked off BYU in a low-scoring affair. The Cowboys’ most recent appearance in the Fiesta Bowl ended in an overtime victory over Stanford with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon leading the way on offense.

On New Year’s Day at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, the Cowboys added another notch to their belt with a 37-35 come-from-behind win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

“We picked a good day to have our best day on offense,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “We had to play fast and try to wear them down and we did. We challenged the team at halftime that anybody that didn’t want to come out and fight play by play, they can stay in the locker room.

“They came out and fought and competed. Couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Oklahoma State found itself trailing by 21 points early on to a Notre Dame team reeling after former head coach Brian Kelly departed for LSU. That opened the door for Marcus Freeman, the team’s defensive coordinator, to take over as head coach on a full-time basis.

The Irish got off to a fast start led by quarterback Jack Coan, who was relied on heavily with Notre Dame’s top running back Kyren Williams opting out of the Fiesta Bowl to prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft. Coan set three Fiesta Bowl records in the game – most offensive yards by a single player, most pass attempts and passing yards.

Coan also tied the record for most passing touchdowns in a game with five, connecting with star tight end Michael Mayer twice. He finished 38-of-68 for 509 yards, the five touchdowns and an interception despite the loss.

Notre Dame against Oklahoma State, in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Notre Dame senior quarterback Jack Coan (17) heads for the sideline away from Oklahoma State senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (20), in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Saturday, January 1, 2022, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

“They made some good second half adjustments offensively and defensively to stop what we were doing offensively and to kind of exploit some things defensively,” Freeman said. “They did a good job and you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.”

Oklahoma State’s offense was stagnant most of the first half. The Cowboys managed 232 total yards and found the end zone twice behind the arm of quarterback Spencer Sanders. But it came after the Irish had already jumped out to a big lead.

The second half, however, was a different story.

Sanders started to gash the Notre Dame defense both through the air and on the ground. Wide receiver Tay Martin, who had two pivotal dropped passes in the third quarter that would’ve extended a drive for the Cowboys, bounced back in a big way by becoming virtually unguardable.

Notre Dame’s secondary had no answer for the senior transfer from Washington State. At one point, he fought threw coverage and with a Notre Dame defender draped all over him made a leaping grab. It led to an Oklahoma State field goal, which became key down the stretch for the Cowboys to secure the victory.

Martin finished with 10 receptions for 104 yards and three touchdowns, tying the Fiesta Bowl record for most touchdown receptions in a game by a player. Sanders, who was named Offensive MVP of the game, finished 34-of-51 for 371 yards through the air and four touchdowns. He also rushed 17 times for 125 yards.

"I'm going to put it down to this, we went in the locker room, and I told my guys I'm going to trust you, and you trust me," Sanders said. "And kind of we walked out with this agreement, like it's time to go. It's time to turn it up. And as you can see, that's what we did."

Notre Dame against Oklahoma State, in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Notre Dame sophomore corner Clarence Lewis (6) brings down Oklahoma State senior wide receiver Tay Martin (1), in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Saturday, January 1, 2022, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Oklahoma State scored 30 unanswered points stemming from the final minutes of the second quarter and into the second half.

Sanders connected with Martin with just over 30 seconds remaining in the first half. On the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half, Sanders connected with Martin for the second time from 5 yards out. Two drives later, Sanders again connected with Martin to tie the game midway through the third.

The Irish had a chance to re-take the lead on several occasions in the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame was driving when All-American safety Kolby Harvell-Peel stripped running back Logan Diggs. Oklahoma State wideout Brennan Presley, who led the way with 137 receiving yards, went on to fumble at the goal line shortly after but the momentum swung heavily in Oklahoma State’s favor.

The Irish were unable to take advantage of Presley’s fumble. After another field goal from Oklahoma State kicker Tanner Brown, Coan was picked off. Even after Sanders fumbled inside the red zone, the Cowboy defense hunkered down and forced yet another punt from Notre Dame.

Brown’s third field goal made it a two-score game, which gave the Cowboys a cushion after Coan led the Irish down the field with just over a minute remaining and found the end zone for their first score of the second half.

“I thought the kids prepared tremendously,” Freeman said. “I thought the coaching staff did a great job. At the end of the day, we didn’t execute when it mattered most.”

With the loss, Notre Dame (11-2) drops to 1-5 all time in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish’s lone win came in 1989 when they beat West Virginia to finish as the national champions.

The come-from-behind victory by Oklahoma State (12-2) was the largest in program history. It was also the largest in the history of the Fiesta Bowl.

Gundy called the win over Notre Dame one of the biggest in the history of the program.

Notre Dame against Oklahoma State, in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy gets dunked with Gatorade in the closing seconds of the Cowboys 37-35 comeback win over Notre Dame, in the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Saturday, January 1, 2022, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

“This is clearly the biggest win in the history of the school,” Gundy said. “You’re in a New Year’s Day bowl, you’re two top 10 teams … you’re playing Notre Dame. As I’ve said for a month, we’ve got a logo we can be proud of now at Oklahoma State from coast to coast.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira

 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.