The Marcus Freeman era for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish started off with a bang, leading 28-7 in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. But the Fighting Irish will now remember Freeman’s first game as another embarrassing moment for the program.
Things looked promising early for the Fighting Irish. Jack Coan led a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to begin Saturday’s action. After Notre Dame generated a takeaway on the Cowboys’ second offensive drive, the Fighting Irish turned it into another touchdown and a 14-point lead.
Things looked even more promising in the second quarter. After generating another three-and-out from Oklahoma State, the Fighting Irish got the football back with a 21-7 lead and five minutes to go before halftime. Just 11 plays later, Michael Mayer found the end zone for what seemed like an insurmountable 21-point lead.
- Notre Dame bowl game record: 2-4 since 2015
Notre Dame had every reason to be confident, even without star safety Kyle Hamilton and top running back Kyren Williams. Since 2014, the Fighting Irish held a perfect 79-0 record in games when they led by 21-plus points. But things started going downhill right before halftime.
Oklahoma State covered 75 yards in 39 seconds, making it 28-14 before halftime. On their first drive of the third quarter, the Cowboys delivered a 12-play, 87-yard scoring drive to make it a 28-21 game. Another Notre Dame punt pinned Oklahoma State inside its 12-yard line. Once again, the Cowboys covered 80-plus yards to tie the game.
The Fighting Irish went three-and-out on their next series. With great field position, the Cowboys covered 36 yards to set up a go-ahead field goal. THen turned a Coan interception into three more points and then made it a 37-28 game with 2:16 remaining.
While the Fighting Irish finally found the end zone, snapping a nearly two-quarter scoreless drought, they couldn’t recover their onside kick. As Oklahoma State celebrated its unbelievable comeback and a 37-35 victory, the college football world lit up Notre Dame for its horrific Fiesta Bowl collapse and another New Year’s Six bowl loss.