At the 1:16 mark of the 2nd quarter ND took a 28-7 lead on a pinpoint 7 yard TD pass from Jack Coan to Michael Mayer. It was Mayer’s 2nd touchdown catch of the day, and Jack Coan’s 4th TD pass.
The Irish had never had it so good. In fact, The high water mark of a rebuilding year had been reached. From that moment forward, the tide, fueled by a lightening infused Oklahoma State tempo attack, scored 30 unanswered points, and Irish fortunes, receded and Marcus Freeman’s hopes for a winning head coaching debut were dashed.
The Irish day was a tale of two cities.
What had been billed as a defensive struggle between two heavyweights turned into two quarterback shows. The first half belonged to Jack Coan, the second was the Spencer Sander’s show.
Both quarterbacks had big days, Jack Coan needed a running game, Spencer Sanders had one.
Oklahoma St. completed the biggest comeback in their school history in route to a 37-35 win over the Irish. The teams combined for 1156 yards of offense and 72 points, obliterating the expectations for a game that figured to be a chess match between two of the best defenses in the nation.
Coan set all-time Fiesta Bowl records with 68 pass attempts and 509 yards passing. He approached the all-time Notre Dame record for yards passing for a game of 526, a record set in 1970 by Joe Theisman. Conspicuous however by it’s absence was the Irish run game, obviously missing NFL bound Kyren Williams, and consistently stuffed by the OSU defense. The Irish running attack, totaled just 42 yards on 21 carries.
As one dimensional as the Irish offense was, the Cowboys led by Spencer Sanders showed plenty of balance. Sanders threw for 371 yards and added 125 yards with his legs to a running attack that totaled 234 yards.
The momentum of the game seemed to shift right after the Irish went up 28-7, when the Cowboys mounted a lightening fast tempo driven four play 75 yard drive to the end zone The drive took just :39 seconds. The Cowboys got the equivalent of a two for one when the Irish knelt down to end the half with a 28-14 lead and then had to kickoff to the Cowboys to start the second half.
OSU then pulled within a touchdown by going on a 12 play 87 yard drive which was capped by a five yard TD pass from Sanders to wide receiver Tay Martin. Martin finished the day with 3 TD catches and 104 yards.
The Irish finally broke a 30 unanswered points drought after a OSU field goal had given them a nine point lead. The Irish, after the three pointer, took the ensuing kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays scoring on a 25 yard Coan to Kevin Austin pass Suddenly ND had life, down just two points with 1:11 remaining.
The ensuing onside kick however, fell into the hands of the Cowboys and the game ended.
Three ND receivers went over 100 yards each, Lorenzo Styles with 136, Chris Tyree 115, and Kevin Austin 105. Each also had a touchdown catch. Michael Mayer also had a big day with 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mayer finishes the season with 7 TDs, an all-time Notre Dame record for tight ends.
The Irish finish their season at 11-2 and have notched 53 wins over the last five years. Oklahoma State finishes their slate, also at 11-2.
Post game Marcus Freeman acknowledged his disappointment by saying, “The honeymoon stage is over—the whole, new head coach, it’s a great story, but now…. it’s about having a great team. We have to make sure that it’s about developing this team for next year. This year is over.”
Notre Dame opens their 2022 season on September 3, 2022 at Ohio State.