Notre Dame blows 21 point lead in Fiesta Bowl: 5 takeaways

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  • Jack Coan
    American football quarterback

Everything was fine and dandy for Notre Dame with two minutes to go in the first half of the 2022 Fiesta Bowl. They led Oklahoma State 28-7, Jack Coan was doing seemingly whatever he wanted, and the Irish appeared headed towards an easy victory to put an end to their drought in winning a major bowl game that dates back to January of 1994.

And then Oklahoma State answered quickly with a touchdown before halftime while the Irish chose to run out the clock despite having all three timeouts.

A third quarter that was entirely dominated by Oklahoma State gave the Cowboys a 31-28 lead that they wouldn’t look back from and what we’re left with is Notre Dame’s biggest collapse in program history.

Here are five takeaways from a brutal defeat on New Year’s Day 2022.

5. Tommy Rees's early playcalling

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Notre Dame started the game by going down the field and scoring in just six plays, all of which were passes. Would that have ever been allowed under Brian Kelly’s watch? Rees and the Notre Dame offense did a fantastic job exploiting the Oklahoma State cushion that was being given to receivers in the first half.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma State changed things up and that success didn’t last.

After Jack Coan’s struggles in the second half I do wonder about the availability of Tyler Buchner for a change of pace and to help sustain a drive.

4. Braden Lenzy Fest/Targeting Clarence Lewis

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Braden Lenzy does a lot of things well, notably run away from people. Lenzy however being targeted roughly 15 times in the game with roughly half of those being deep shots in coverage, leaves a ton to be desired not only in terms of play-calling but also with the whole idea of looking for special players and not so much special plays.

On the other side of the ball it felt like every time Oklahoma State needed a big play that it was Clarence Lewis that they looked to throw at and as the game went on their success rate with that only grew and grew and grew.

3. Oklahoma State's golden parachutes

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Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this loss to me, and there were PLENTY of them, was the fact that Oklahoma State kept keeping Notre Dame in it in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys fumbled going into the end zone in what would have made it a two possession game and then again fumbled inside the red zone. With all of that all Notre Dame was able to do was delay the inevitable as a sustained offense was nowhere to be found the entire second half.

2. Horrific Close to First Half

Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

After Michael Mayer scored his second touchdown to put Notre Dame up 28-7 the Irish did nothing close the half. Oklahoma State answered quickly with a touchdown drive of their own to cut the lead to 28-14. With 37 seconds remaining and all of their timeouts, Notre Dame opted to run one play up the middle for four yards and run the clock out for the first half.

If the coaching staff is taking their foot off the gas how do they not expect the players to somewhat follow suit? After doing that it’s not hard to see why the third quarter went the way it did.

Speaking of…

1. Flat third quarter


There are bad quarters, there are awful quarters, and then there is what happened to Notre Dame in the third quarter of the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma State seized the slight momentum they took into halftime and came out with their collective hair on fire and outscored the Irish 17-0 in the quarter to take a 31-28 lead into halftime. Their tempo offense gassed the Notre Dame defense which only became more of an issue as things went on.