Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 32 of 63 JANUARY 2022 33 GAME PREVIEW: OKLAHOMA STATE BY TYLER HORKA M ike Gundy is finally getting his wish. The Oklahoma State head coach said he tried to get Oklahoma State brass to set up a home- and-home with Notre Dame a few years back. Much to his dismay, the deal never got done. "What I was told is Notre Dame has been booked up for a long, long time," Gundy said. "So it never worked out." Leave it to chance. Leave it to the postseason. Leave it to the Fiesta Bowl. It's finally working out for Gundy and his Cowboys. No. 5 Notre Dame (11-1) and No. 9 Oklahoma State (11-2) will face each other for the first time ever at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on New Year's Day. Gundy said he's thrilled by the oppor- tunity to face the Fighting Irish. "I think it's cool," the coach said. "It's going to bring a lot of national recogni- tion. We have a team that ended up fifth in the country. So just right there on being in the College Football Playoff [conversa- tion], obviously the committee feels like they're the team that's just right there. And it will draw a lot of recognition across the country because of their history." A lot of eyes will naturally draw to the game because it's the first of new Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman's career. Never before has the 35-year- old been in charge of an entire program. Now he's at the helm of one of the most storied ones in the sport's history. The Freeman storyline is compelling. It's not every year a program like Notre Dame loses a longstanding head coach to another perennial power and replaces him with an assistant the former coach tried to get to follow him to his new lo- cation. College football fans and media had fun with that while the chaos of the change was in full swing. By Jan. 1, though, the dust from that will have settled considerably. It will be about a first-year head coach trying to take down one of the most established head coaches in the country. Gundy is wrapping up his 17th season in Stillwa- ter. The Cowboys have been bowl eli- gible for all but one of them — the very first in 2005. Oklahoma State is 10-5 in bowl games under Gundy's guidance. The biggest vic- tory came during the 2011 campaign in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford and its future NFL star quarterback, Andrew Luck. Gundy has been there and done that. Freeman is learning on the fly. As of Dec. 12, Freeman said he hadn't even studied much of Oklahoma State's film yet. He was formally introduced as Notre Dame's head coach less than a week before then. All of the obligations that come with that are something Gundy has not had to deal with in nearly two decades. It's old school versus new school in the desert. When it comes down to it, though, neither Gundy nor Freeman will be on the field. "As we all know, essentially players play in the games and not coaches," Gundy said. "And with them hiring within, their system will stay pretty tight up through the Fiesta Bowl. We're going to play a really talented team." Oklahoma State is really talented, too. You don't get inches away from winning the Big 12 championship game without that being so. The Cowboys could have very well ended up as the No. 5 team in the country instead of Notre Dame if run- ning back Dezmon Jackson capped the Cowboys' 17-play drive off with a one- yard touchdown across the left pylon. In- stead, Jackson was forced out of bounds just shy of the goal line on fourth down. It'll be interesting to see what that dev- astating defeat does to Oklahoma State's psyche. What kind of Cowboys team Facts & Figures OKLAHOMA STATE VS. NOTRE DAME Date: Jan. 1, 2022 Site: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.) Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET Television: ESPN Radio: This game can be heard on Notre Dame IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This is the first ever meeting between Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. Head coaches: Oklahoma State — Mike Gundy (148-69, 17th season); Notre Dame — Marcus Freeman (0-0, first season). Noting Oklahoma State: The Cowboys rank No. 11 nationally in wins since 2010 with 112, while Notre Dame is No. 10 with 113 … Oklahoma State ranks No. 5 nationally in scoring offense since 2010 with 38.4 points per game … The Pokes had one top-25 finish in the 16 years before Gundy became head coach and has eight during his 17-year tenure; this season will almost assuredly mark the ninth such campaign … Gundy trails only Alabama's Nick Saban, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Clemson's Dabo Swinney among active coaches with the most wins at their current programs … This marks the 14th time in Oklahoma State history it has played a game in which both teams are ranked in the top 10; the Cowboys are 4-9 in such contests … OSU is 7-3 in its last 10 outings against top-25 opponents … Alabama and Oklahoma State are the only teams in the country with two wins over current top-10 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings … A win would tie the Cowboys' record for wins in a season; they won 12 games in 2011. POKED BY THE BEARS Coming off a tough loss to Baylor in the Big 12 title game, the Cowboys are motivated to knock off Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl Redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Sanders threw four interceptions against Baylor in the Big 12 championship game, but the Cowboys still have confidence in their first-team All-Big 12 signal-caller. PHOTO COURTESY OKLAHOMA STATE ATHLETICS

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