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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Was Ready, Failed to Execute

January 1, 2022

History repeats itself and for Notre Dame, the Irish coming up short in New Year's Six games was no different on Saturday as Oklahoma State walked out of State Farm Stadium with a 37-35 victory. 

It started with a bang as Notre Dame led 28-7 with 1:16 remaining in the first half. 

The following 31 minutes was similar to watching a Notre Dame basketball game as Oklahoma State unleashed a 30-0 run to take a 37-28 lead. 

Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders hooked up with Tay Martin 10 times for 104 yards and three scores as the duo attacked Irish cornerback Clarence Lewis. 

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman acknowledged the big plays and showed why he's beloved by his team as he didn't throw the sophomore cornerback under the bus.

"You know what," stated Freeman. "I trust [Clarence]. You know, [Tay Martin] made some plays. He's a heck of a player. We got to do a better job - maybe mixing it up. 

"But you know what, C-Lew is gonna do great things for us and he's done great things for us. You know what, I wouldn't trade him for the world."

Yet, this game was different. The Irish jumped on an opponent in a big game and had a chance to go into halftime with a 21-point advantage. 

Notre Dame then fell into the team it was earlier in the year as Oklahoma State scored with :37 seconds to go before the half to cut the lead to 28-14. 

Is it coaching? Is it a lack of execution? Or is the lack of a true killer instinct? 

Notre Dame linebacker Drew White felt execution failed the Irish in his final game in the blue and gold. 

"At the end of the day, I don't think -- many times we were outschemed," stated White. "I think it came down to just executing and making tackles and covering guys. That's really what it came down to." 

Oklahoma State may have outschemed the Irish by going with tempo as the Cowboys were able to push the gas and ran 57 plays in the second half. 

One can easily argue that Oklahoma State's offense executed better and allowed the Cowboys to run tempo by earning first downs. 

You can talk in circles, but one aspect is evident. Notre Dame has to make more plays on both sides of the ball to win against top competition. 

White didn't feel the tempo impact Notre Dame's communication and tipped his cap as Oklahoma State simply made plays in 1-on-1 situations, whether an open field tackle or a 50-50 ball. 

"There might have been a couple of times where we felt short of getting the communication and getting lined up, but I think as an overall, I really don't think that was the problem on defense," explained White. "I think it was more of just executing. On the 50-50 balls, you've got to make a play. They've got to be ours. On the tackling, by the first level and second level, you've got to tackle the quarterback, you've got to tackle the running back. 

"I want to give credit to those athletes, too. Sometimes when the offense makes big plays, everyone is quick to say the defense made a mistake. I've got to give hats off and praise to the Oklahoma State offense for having playmakers and really making good plays, making explosive plays when they had to."

On offense, quarterback Jack Coan set records for most passing attempts and yards in a Fiesta Bowl, along with tying the record for touchdowns. 

Coan finished his final collegiate game going 38-of-68 for 509 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

The interception was a backbreaker as it came deep inside Oklahoma State territory with 6:35 remaining in the game and the Irish down six points. 

"I just thought I was going to be able to backdoor the guy," recalled Coan. "Obviously, he read my eyes well and came back on it. At the end of the day, it's tough; and I should have probably worked outside and threw to somebody else, but that's football." 

The graduate transfer also felt much like White when it came down to why the Irish fell in Arizona. 

"Honestly, I feel like they were just making more plays, to be honest," said Coan. "I don't think they were doing anything crazy to confuse me or the offense. 

"At the end of the day, they were just making plays and we weren't. I would say that was the biggest thing." 

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