The Best and the Worst from OSU’s Fiesta Bowl Win over Notre Dame

January 2, 2022

The Cowboys picked up win No. 12 for just the second time in school history, and did so on the exact same field.

It was 10 years earlier that Gundy’s 2011 Big 12 Championship Pokes edged out Stanford in overtime of the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. He said this one was bigger, and who am I to argue.

Let’s take a look at the best and worst from the Cowboys’ big win.

Best Save: Brennan Presley’s Ground Catch

This pass from Spencer Sanders was a tad bit short, but the speedy slot receiver came back and made a big play to help his QB out.

Presley instinctively got both mitts on the turf and then showed stellar body control as he was able retain possession and complete this huge catch, and a big momentum play.

I always find the reactions of people on the sideline with no clear view of the play to be hilarious, regardless of the team.

Worst Strategy: Falling Behind to Begin With

When you end your season the way OSU did, there’s not too much to complain about, but tell that to OSU fans late in the second quarter.

Here’s the deal. You can’t complete a historic comeback if you didn’t fall behind big to begin with. OSU found itself in a 14-0 hole midway through the first quarter as Notre Dame’s Jack Coan sliced up the Pokes defense with short passes on the perimeter.

The Cowboys answered with a touchdown drive early in the second but then gave up consecutive TD drives to Irish to fall behind 28-7. That was when the game switched. The Cowboys scored late in the half, made adjustments and then dominated most of the final two quarters.

Best Bounce-Back: Tay Martin

The Cowboys were in a three-TD hole with a minute until halftime, and then Tay Martin proceeded to score the game’s next three touchdowns.

Martin had a rough start to his final collegiate game, but he shook it off like a pro (which he is) and turned in a career performance. He’d caught one pass for three yards and then had back-to-back drops earlier in the second quarter, including a would-be 20-yard play that would have moved the Cowboys into the red zone. Instead the Pokes had to punt.

But his next target came in the end zone and he didn’t leave it up to chance.

It was the first of three touchdown catches, tying a Fiesta Bowl record and Tay was as sure-handed as ever from them on. He caught nine of the final 12 passes thrown his way, including this all-time Mossing.

Best Improv: Sanders Finding Warren and Warren Being Warren

Beyond the numbers — and beside one red zone fumble — Spencer Sanders played one heckuva game in the desert. He worked through his progressions, was purposeful with his runs and reacted quickly and correctly.

Here Sanders responds well to pressure and then found his safety valve, Jaylen Warren, to avoid a sack. And then Warren did what he does and turned a little into a lot. Gonna miss watching No. 7 (more on that below).

Sanders had his downs this year, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his ups. He’ll be one year older and wiser and I’m excited to see what he can accomplish in 2022.

Best Rip: Kolby Harvell-Peel Takes it Back

This was a grown man’s play. This was no punch. KHP showed off his superior grip strength to pull the ball out of Logan Diggs’ bread basket, and then the wherewithal to collect it midair and hit the turf.

Best Anticipation: Malcolm Rodriguez Takes Another One Back

Not to be outdone in his final college game, Rodriguez sat back nicely in coverage, read the eyes of Jack Coan and then grabbed a rare INT from the veteran QB.

This takeaway came at a huge time in the game. Notre Dame was on its longest drive of the second half to that point and was in OSU territory. An Irish touchdown would have taken back the lead.

In his finale, Rodriguez became just the fourth Cowboy to record at least 400 tackles in a career.

Worst Feeling: No More of These

Jaylen Warren didn’t break any bowl records in his final game but he had a huge impact on the Cowboys’ ability to move the ball.

Sadly, there will be no more of these.

Or these.

For someone who we weren’t sure would start a game when he signed with OSU last year, Warren was a revelation in 2021. He was the engine that drove OSU’s offense. His 1,216 rushing yards tied Joseph Randle’s sophomore season for the 19th-highest single rushing season in school history. He will be missed.

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