Beavers, Irish clash in Sun Bowl

OSU Wide Receiver Silas Bolden celebrates after having gotten OSU’s offense within 20 yards of the goal line Friday night. Bolden received for 100 yards and one touchdown against Utah.
OSU Wide Receiver Silas Bolden celebrates after having gotten OSU’s offense within 20 yards of the goal line Friday night. Bolden received for 100 yards and one touchdown against Utah.
Sam Misa

The Beavers play their final game of the 2023 season in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The bowl game between the No. 21 Oregon State Beavers (8-4, 5-4 PAC-12) and the No. 15 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-3) will kick off at noon MST (11 a.m. PST) and will be televised on CBS.

Oregon State leads the all-time series against Notre Dame with a 2-0 record, the most recent matchup was a 38-21 win over the Irish in the Insight Bowl. The first meeting between both schools saw Oregon State win the Fiesta Bowl in dominating fashion with a 41-9 victory over the Irish.

“I know they’re a heck of a football team, there’s a reason why they’re ranked in the top 25 and I know they’ll present some great challenges for our program,” Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said.

As the end of the season approaches, the transfer portal opens right before the start of bowl season, and the Beavers and the Fighting Irish have seen their share of departures and opt-outs shaking rosters for the Sun Bowl.

“It’s a challenge,” Freeman said. “At first it took figuring out who would actually be available and who is going to play in the game.” 

Oregon State interim head coach Kefense Hynson echoed similar sentiments to Freeman adding he knows what the roster is and that it’s a next-man-up mentality for guys that are available to play.

The Beavers will be without linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold, defensive backs Akili Arnold and Jermod McCoy, quarterbacks D.J. Uiagalelei and Aidan Chiles, kicker Atticus Sappington, and tight-ends Jack Velling and Jake Overman.

Oregon State will also not have offensive lineman Joshua Gray due to a foot injury that he sustained during the season. Wide receiver Anthony Gould and offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga opted out of playing in the bowl game to focus on the NFL Draft.

Oregon State running back Damien Martinez will also not be participating in the Sun Bowl after his suspension was lifted after his DUII arrest. Before the suspension was lifted, Martinez returned home to Texas and has not been practicing at bowl practices with the team.

“Damien returned home to Texas with the understanding that he would not be able to play in the Sun Bowl. To change courses at this time is not in the best interest for him or his teammates, as our team prepares for the bowl game and Damien continues his hard work for continued success in future years at Oregon State,” Oregon State head coach Trent Bray said in a statement.

Hynson elaborated on Martinez’s status, adding that it wasn’t a coaching decision to keep him out of the game.

“It’s a matter of the (football) shape he is in, we have to see what kind of shape he’s in. He took a little time off. It’s just a matter of him being able to play and be Damien. From a football standpoint, you have to be ready to play this game, especially at running back,” Hynson said. 

“You’re going to take 20-25 hits and you have to be in shape to do that. It has to make sense for him to do that.”

Hynson added that he feels that both running back Deshaun Fenwick and Isaiah Newell are more than capable of stepping up in Martinez’s absence.

The departures of key starters for the Beavers opened the door for players to step up and take on an expanded role for the Sun Bowl in addition to Fenwick and Newell.

On the other side of the field, Notre Dame will be without their starting quarterback Sam Hartman, defensive backs Thomas Harper and Cam Hart, running back Audric Estime, offensive lineman Blake Fisher and Joe Alt, and linebacker Marist Mafu.

“It’s a great opportunity for our players and coaches to develop what we know is going to be the future of our offense in our program but also, we got to be creative, you got some new guys that haven’t had a whole bunch of experience,” Freeman said. “So, it’s a challenge to create a game plan that allows our guys to play fast, but a great opportunity for them to develop and get some real meaningful action.”

The Fighting Irish posted a 9-3 record under Freeman in his second year as head coach of Notre Dame. Freeman was the defensive coordinator under former head coach Brian Kelly at Notre Dame in 2021 before taking over as head coach full-time after Kelly left for the LSU head coaching job two years ago.

In Freemans’s first year as defensive coordinator, he helped turn around a struggling Fighting Irish defense as they posted a top-20 ranking in multiple defensive statistics.

The Irish finished the 2023 season seventh nationally in defensive touchdowns (four), 10th in turnovers gained (25) and third-down conversion percentage (.321), 13th in total sacks (41.0), 14th in interceptions (15), and 15th in scoring defense (19.7). The Notre Dame defense finished the 2023 season tying the team sack total set in 1996 with 46.

Before coming to Notre Dame, Freeman spent the previous four seasons as the defensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati. Oregon State linebacker Melvin Jordan IV mentioned that coming out of high school he was recruited by Freeman when he was at Cincinnati.

For the Beavers, they look to finish out the season with back-to-back bowl victories and potentially improve their record to 9-3 for the 2023 season. The Fighting Irish look to win their first game against the Beavers and improve to 10-3 on the 2023 season.

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  • J

    James McManusDec 29, 2023 at 10:50 am

    Left a comment that the article has an error in that Brian Kelly was not fired.

    He left on his own volition to take the LSU head coaching job.

    You may want to fix that error.

  • F

    Frank McGoronDec 29, 2023 at 5:44 am

    Brian Kelly was not fired. He left to take the job at LSU prior to the Bowl game two years ago.