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Sanders earns MVP honors as Oklahoma State tops Miami 37-34 in thrilling 2020 Cheez-It Bowl

By Brian Murphy
Florida Citrus Sports

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders tied a career-high with four passing touchdowns as the No. 21 Oklahoma State Cowboys defeated the No. 18 Miami Hurricanes 37-34 in the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl on Tuesday night at Camping World Stadium.

“This win might be as satisfying and gratifying a win for me, personally, selfishly, as any that I’ve had in my career.” Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy said. “Just seeing the exhilaration and enjoyment on the players’ faces after the game — this was a really, really good college football game, and we beat a good football team.”

Three of Sanders’ touchdowns went to freshman wide receiver Brennan Sanders. That duo hooked up twice in the first quarter to help Oklahoma State build a 21-0 lead.

Miami began a comeback effort early in the second quarter with a 10-yard strike from senior quarterback D’Eriq King to junior tight end Brevin Jordan. However, King was forced out of action when he suffered a right knee injury at the end of a 5-yard rush with about five minutes remaining in the first half.

The Hurricanes’ backup quarterback, junior N’Kosi Perry, went 19-for-34 for 228 passing yards and two touchdowns in place of King. He led three touchdown drives in the second half to keep drawing Miami back to within one score. But the Hurricanes came up empty on their final two drives in the waning minutes.

“At no point did I think we would lose that game, and I don’t think our team did either until [the clock] hit triple zeros,” Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz said.

Each team concluded its 2020 season with an 8-3 record.

Sanders shines

The Cowboys arrived in Orlando boasting a formidable running attack, averaging nearly 200 rushing yards per game. But instead of winning this game on the ground, Oklahoma State took to the air and relied on Sanders’ right arm from the start. The sophomore dropped back to pass on OSU’s first 15 plays and completed 12 of 14 pass attempts. By the end of the first quarter, Sanders had completed 15 of 18 throws for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

“Our timing was great,” Sanders said. “I was connecting with all of my receivers.”

Sanders’ four passing touchdowns tie for the second-most in Cheez-It Bowl history while his 27 completions are fifth-most in bowl history. He threw for 305 yards, didn’t commit a turnover, paced the team with 45 rushing yards and was ultimately named 2020 Cheez-It Bowl Most Valuable Player.

“He continues to improve and get better each game,” Gundy said of his QB.

Presley is in the building

Only a true freshman, Presley hauled in six passes for a game-high 118 yards and three touchdowns. He entered the game with just one reception and 16 yards from scrimmage for the entire season. By the time it was over, he had become the first player in Cheez-It Bowl history with three touchdown catches.

“Me going out there and doing that, it gives me a great sense of confidence to know that, you know, the things that I did in high school, I can still do now,” Presley said. “And it gives me confidence to try and improve on that going into next year.”

State success

Oklahoma State improved its bowl record to 20-11. That 64.5 winning percentage is third-best among programs that have played in at least 30 bowl games.

Head coach Mike Gundy now has 31 victories over opponents ranked in the Associated Press poll. Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney are the only other active head coaches who have won at least 30 games over top-25 competition at their current schools.

Finding the end zone

Hurricanes junior tight end Brevin Jordan scored twice — once in the second quarter and once in the fourth. It was the second multi-touchdown performance of his career. The first came back in September of 2018, in the second game of Jordan’s true freshman season.

Miami senior wide receiver Mike Harley also caught a TD in the fourth quarter. Both he and Jordan finished the year by scoring in each of their final three games.

Third-down stops

Oklahoma State’s third-down defense lived up to its reputation, holding the Hurricanes to just 4-of-14 — or 28.6 percent — on third downs.

The effort included a pair of third-down stops on separate drives when Miami was pressing for the tying or go-ahead score with less than 5 minutes remaining. OSU came into the game limiting opponents to a 26.3 conversion rate on third down, the second-best in college football.

Just kicking it

Hurricanes senior kicker Jose Borregales made both of his field goal tries in the Cheez-It Bowl. He finished the 2020 season with 20 makes in 22 attempts. That conversion rate of 90.9 ranks ninth among all kickers and is No. 1 among kickers with at least 15 attempts. Borregales’ 20 field goals are tied for the second-most in the nation.