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 former Washington State Cougar 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) 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).
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 after trailing 28-7 late in the first half.
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
Notre Dame still had a chance down the stretch.
The Irish forced two fumbles deep in their 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.
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