No. 9 Oklahoma State beats No. 5 Notre Dame 37-35 in Fiesta

Icon Sportswire / Contributor
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Oklahoma State was a step slow in the first half, appearing to be stuck in the desert sand while Notre Dame raced around the field.

A quick scoring drive just before halftime gave the No. 9 Cowboys a spark and they rode it one of the biggest victories in school history.

Led by Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State pulled off the biggest comeback in Fiesta Bowl history, overcoming a 21-point deficit to beat No. 5 Notre Dame 37-35 on Saturday.

Sanders accounted for 496 yards and threw three of his four touchdown passes to Tay Martin, including a 9-yarder to cap a four-play, 75-yard drive just before halftime.

“Us going down and scoring quickly just before the half, that gave us hope,” Oklahoma State Mike Gundy said. “That gave us a chance as coaches to say, `Guys, we’re fine.”‘

Oklahoma State (12-2, No. 9 CFP) came up inches short of securing a College Football Playoff spot in a loss to No. 6 Baylor at the Big 12 title game and fell into 21-point, first-half hole against Notre Dame (11-2, No. 5 CFP).

Jack Coan led Notre Dame’s early charge while throwing for a Fiesta Bowl-record 509 yards and five touchdowns.

Sanders and Martin brought the Cowboys back.

Sanders, who had a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Bray in the first quarter, cut Notre Dame’s lead to 28-14 with a 9-yard scoring pass to Martin with 37 seconds left in the first half. The pair connected for two more touchdowns, from 5 and 8 yards, to tie the game, and the Cowboys went up 34-28 on three field goals by Tanner Brown.

Sanders threw for 371 yards on 34-of-51 passing and ran for 125 yards after throwing four interceptions in the Big 12 title game. He’s the second player in FBS history with 350 yards passing, 100 rushing yards and four passing touchdowns in a bowl game, joining Clemson’s Tajh Boyd in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

“One the game down to on, it was anybody’s game and we just decided to pull a little harder,” Sanders said.

Notre Dame still had a chance.

The Irish forced two fumbles deep in their own end, but turned the ball over on downs at the 15 and Brown kicked a 25-yard field goal

Coan threw a 25-yard TD pass to Kevin Austin with 1:05 left to pull Notre Dame within two, but Oklahoma State recovered the onside kick to keep the Irish winless in major bowl games since the 1993 Cotton Bowl under Lou Holtz.

“In the first half, we scored 28 points, we’re moving the ball, we’re protecting the quarterback and obviously things didn’t go that way in the second half,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said after his head coaching debut. “We have to go back a see what the defense did schematically to give us some issues and try find a way to make sure that never happens again.”

The Irish appeared to be headed toward a rousing start to the Freeman era, building a 28-7 lead behind Coan. Notre Dame’s senior quarterback threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, including two to tight end Michael Mayer.

All the momentum came to a thudding halt in the second half.

Oklahoma State ramped up the pressure on Coan and shut down Notre Dame’s offense while its offense was revving up.

Notre Dame finally got something going midway through the fourth quarter, but Malcolm Rodriguez stepped in front of Austin for an interception at the Cowboys’ 18-yard line.

“It was a lot of yards, but all I really care about at the end of the day is winning,” said Coan, who finished 38 for 68. “I wish I could have done more to help the team.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Notre Dame’s latest loss in a major bowl is going to sting for a while. The Irish looked like their argument to have been in the CFP was valid in a dominating first half, only to fall flat in the second.

A monster turnaround after a flat start gave Oklahoma State its first major bowl win since the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Irish will have to replace Coan and Williams on offense, but Mayer, their leading receiver, is a sophomore. DT Kurt Hinish is out of eligibility and pass rushing specialist Isaiah Foskey is planning decided whether to leave for the NFL by Jan. 17.

Oklahoma State: Sanders still has eligibility left, but the Cowboys will have to replace Warren, Martin, RB Dezmon Jackson and OL Josh Sills.

No. 3 TCU loses 31-28 in OT to K-State in Big 12 title game

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.

That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.

TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.

“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”

No. 4 USC falls to Utah in Pac-12 Championship, damaging playoff hopes

Utah vs. USC
USA Today
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LAS VEGAS — No. 12 Utah pounded a limping, bloodied Caleb Williams and roared past No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship and put USC’s College Football Playoff hopes in doubt.

The loss by the Trojans (11-2) could open the way for Ohio State (11-1) to take their spot in the playoffs. USC is fourth in the CFP rankings, the Buckeyes are one step behind.

Ohio State had to be Utah’s biggest fan. The Buckeyes move up in playoff consideration, with 12-0 Michigan at No. 2 with the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, that would give the Big Ten conference two playoff teams for the first time. It also would extend the Pac-12′s playoff drought — Washington in 2017 is the last team from that conference to make the playoffs.

Utah (10-3) is heading to the Rose Bowl, but the Utes already were going there regardless of the outcome of the title game. They are responsible for USC’s only losses, having edged the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.

The Utes rolled up 533 yards of offense in the rematch, and Cam Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams threw for 363 yards and three TDs. He entered the game as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but wasn’t the same after getting injured in the first quarter.

The Trojans looked as if they were going to run away with the game, taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter behind some stellar play by Williams.

He appeared to hurt his left knee or leg in the first quarter on a 59-yard run in which he took a big hit at the end, and he suffered a bad cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand. He spent most of the game limping, and wasn’t the same after a sterling first quarter in which the Trojans outgained Utah in total yards 194-70, and Williams had both touchdown passes.

After USC failed to pick up a fourth-and-8 from Utah’s 37-yard line, the Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:55 of the first half, and suddenly the game was tied at 17. Instead of a rout, the game was beginning to look like the shootout the Utes won in October.

The game took on that tone at times in the second half, but USC had no answer for how to slow down Utah, which outscored the Trojans 44-7 in overcoming that two-touchdown deficit.

ATTENDANCE RECORD

A announced sellout crowd of 61,195 made this the largest for a neutral-site Pac-12 Championship. It beat the previous record of 58,476 fans. who watched Southern California-Stanford in Santa Clara, California, in 2015.