GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Spencer Sanders accounted for 496 yards and threw three of his four touchdown passes to Ty Martin, and No. 9 Oklahoma State overcame a 21-point deficit to beat No. 5 Notre Dame 37-35 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
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.
Coan threw a 25-yard TD pass to 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.
Sanders threw for 371 yards on 34-of-51 passing and ran for 125 yards.
The Irish appeared to be headed toward a rousing start to the Marcus 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.
But the Irish looked like they were floundering in the desert sand throughout 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 Kevin Austin for an interception at the Cowboys’ 18-yard line.
Coan finished 38 for 68.
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.
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.