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Marcus Freeman’s Roller Coaster Debut Includes Broken Record As ND Falters

Marcus Freeman’s head coaching debut was unlike any others—it began in a New Year’s Six bowl. 

And at first, it looked promising as the Fighting Irish came out red hot. Heading into the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma State hadn’t allowed more than 24 points during the first half in 13 games, but that quickly changed as offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and Notre Dame posted 28 points. The most the Cowboys have allowed in an entire game this season was 33 points, which came from Oklahoma. 

Quarterback Jack Coan threw all four touchdowns without a single interception throughout the first two quarters. The numbers from the receiver corps greatly offset the rushing squad. The offensive unit had tallied over 300 yards while still in the second quarter, and the defense kept the Cowboys at bay with just a single touchdown each quarter in the first half. By the end of the game, Coan threw for a career-high and Fiesta Bowl-record 509 yards and five touchdowns.

But then, the second half showed a different side of Notre Dame as the Cowboys quickly woke up out of the gate. Oklahoma State scored 17 points in the third quarter, including two touchdowns from Tay Martin. Tanner Brown went on to score three field goals—one with six seconds to go in the third and two in the fourth. 

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As the defense seemed to waver against the surging Oklahoma State offense, the Fighting Irish seemed to falter too, losing its spark. Notre Dame went scoreless in the third and Coan threw his only interception of the game with six minutes and 35 seconds to go in the fourth. 

The quarterback bounced back, throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Kevin Austin Jr. but it just was not enough, as the Fighting Irish fell 37–35. Notre Dame has not won a New Year‘s Six bowl since 1994. 

Although Oklahoma State put up 30 unanswered points as they powered back from being down 28–7, Freeman and the Fighting Irish lost by just two points in a major bowl game, showing some promise in this next chapter that had a large question mark over the last month after Brian Kelly departed for LSU. 

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