Irish Overpower Beavers Despite Missing Players
The No. 15 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish convincingly beat the No. 21 ranked Oregon State Beavers by a score of 40-8 in the 90th Annual Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on Friday.
Notre Dame came into the game missing several key players on both sides of the ball who opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft, including tight end Michael Mayer, wide receiver Braden Lenzy, and cornerback Cam Hart. However, their absences didn’t slow the Irish down as they racked up 437 yards of total offense while holding Oregon State to just 263 yards.
“I wasn’t surprised with how our guys performed,” said Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman after the game. “This is a resilient group.”
Quarterback Steve Angeli made his second career start for the Irish and delivered an MVP performance. The sophomore went 13-of-21 passing for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns while also adding 39 rushing yards. Two of Angeli’s TD passes were caught by senior wideout Jayden Thomas, who stepped up with 6 catches for 85 yards.
| Passing | Comp/Att | Yards | TD | INT |
| Steve Angeli | 13/21 | 170 | 3 | 0 |
| Rushing | Carries | Yards | TD |
| Audric Estime | 17 | 108 | 0 |
| Steve Angeli | 4 | 39 | 0 |
Running back Audric Estime powered Notre Dame’s ground attack with 108 yards on 17 carries. The Irish outrushed the Beavers 234-89 on the day. Defensively, linebackers JD Bertrand and Jack Kiser combined for 19 total tackles to spearhead a dominant effort that registered 6 sacks and kept Oregon State off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.
The Beavers were playing without leading rusher Damien Martinez and top tackler Omar Speights and struggled to get anything going consistently against Notre Dame’s defense. Quarterback Ben Gulbranson was under pressure most of the afternoon and finished 17-of-34 for 177 yards with a late TD pass. He was also picked off once and lost a fumble.
New Era Begins for Freeman, Oregon State Starts Over
The emphatic Sun Bowl victory capped off an up-and-down debut season for Marcus Freeman that saw Notre Dame go 9-4. The first-time head coach took over the program after last year’s Sun Bowl loss when Brian Kelly left abruptly for LSU.
After some early growing pains, Freeman’s squad finished the year strong, winning their last six games. The momentum they built with several underclassmen playing key roles creates optimism going into 2023.
On the other sideline, interim coach Keefense Hynson and Oregon State wrapped up a disappointing 9-3 campaign that left them short of the high expectations set by last season’s success. Jonathan Smith had turned the Beavers into a top-25 program before leaving to take the head coaching job at Washington last month.
Now Oregon State will start fresh with new head coach Brent Brennan, formerly of San Jose State. He faces a key decision at quarterback with Gulbranson’s eligibility expired and the transfer portal likely to reshape the roster. Still, the Beavers are positioned to remain competitive behind a stout defense.
Notre Dame and Oregon State both hope to use their Sun Bowl experience, albeit in different ways, to fuel future growth.
Third Times a Charm for Irish in 90th Sun Bowl
Notre Dame made their third Sun Bowl appearance and first since 2018 after being selected as the ACC representative. Their run of New Year’s Six bowl bids under former coach Brian Kelly ended this season. But the Irish made the most of what some considered a consolation prize matchup.
The 40 points Notre Dame scored were their most ever in the Sun Bowl. The program improved to 2-1 all-time in the game, also defeating Miami in 2010 behind senior receiver Michael Floyd’s record-setting performance.
In front of an announced crowd of 48,921 at the Sun Bowl stadium, Notre Dame firmly grasped momentum early on and delivered the knockout blow with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Irish faithful turned out in droves and roared their approval as Marcus Freeman and his retooling squad built confidence that should raise expectations entering 2023.
Meanwhile, Oregon State still seeks their first Sun Bowl triumph, having also made three previous visits in 2010, 2008 and 1967. The Beavers struggled without key playmakers on Friday and simply had no answers for Notre Dame defensively. The lopsided defeat put a damper on the finale for outgoing coach Jonathan Smith.
But the storied Pac-12 program will look to turn the page quickly with new leadership and use their Sun Bowl shortcomings as motivation when they return to bowl contention.
Notre Dame likely closes the book on the Marcus Freeman regime’s first chapter with optimism abound. His core coaching staff remains intact for continuity and the roster returns a young core centered around Angeli, Estime and rising stars like WR Deion Colzie, TE Eli Raridon and RB Jadarian Price.
The Irish await star tight end Michael Mayer’s final decision on turning pro or utilizing his remaining college eligibility after he did not suit up for the Sun Bowl. Standouts like Bertrand, DT Isaiah Foskey and LT Joe Alt also have NFL draft options to weigh with eligibility left. Notre Dame expects to be firmly in the next wave of College Football Playoff contenders nonetheless.
For Oregon State, the program starts over yet again after Jonathan Smith’s departure. New coach Brent Brennan brings a solid track record from San Jose State and will inject new ideas. But getting stabilized under center is paramount. The Beavers figure to be competitive while integrating multiple transfers around foundational pieces like LB Easton Mascarenas-Arnold and CB Rejzohn Wright.
The 2023 campaign kicks off next August with both Notre Dame and Oregon State looking to write new chapters. The Irish will step up in class with marquee matchups booked against Ohio State and Clemson. Meanwhile, the Beavers rebuild through a manageable early slate before running the Pac-12 gauntlet.
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