The Buckeyes took advantage of a two-headed rushing attack, out gaining the Irish 285-121 on the ground. Running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed 27 times for 160 yards and four touchdowns, which tied the Fiesta Bowl record set by Arizona State’s Woody Green in 1972. Quarterback J.T. Barrett added 108 yards on 23 rushing attempts and took home the 2016 Fiesta Bowl Offensive Player of the Game, also racking up 211 passing yards on 19-of-31 passes, a touchdown and an interception.
Ohio State came out of the gate quickly, forcing three-and-outs on Notre Dame’s first two possessions and scoring two touchdowns of their own to put the Irish in an early 14-0 hole less than eight minutes into the game. The Ohio State defense would hold strong through the end of the first quarter, leaving Notre Dame with no first quarter points for the first time this season. The teams traded touchdowns throughout the second quarter to put the score at 28-14 at the half time break.
The Irish seemed to be in a position to make it a game, beginning the third quarter with a Joe Schmidt interception of Barrett and taking advantage of the short field to score on a Kizer touchdown pass to Chris Brown to cut the lead to 28-21. However on the very next drive, Elliott broke free on a 47-yard touchdown run to give Ohio State back its two score advantage heading into the final quarter, 35-21.
Ohio State opened the fourth quarter with a drive capped by a 37-yard field goal by Sean Nuernberger, but Notre Dame again looked like it was in a position to complete the comeback attempt, scoring quickly on the next drive on an 81-yard touchdown reception by Will Fuller, the second-longest pass completion in Fiesta Bowl history, to cut the lead to 38-28. However, Ohio State would use a pair of field goals on its next two drives while holding Kizer at bay with three fourth quarter sacks to establish a 44-28 lead and wind down the clock on its 2015 season.
Kizer finished with 284 passing yards on 22-of-37 with two touchdowns and an interception, while also adding 21 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Josh Adams led the Irish with 78 rushing yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, setting the Irish record for rushing yards in a season by a freshman. Fuller led all receivers in the game with 113 yards on six receptions. Schmidt finished with a game-high 13 tackles and a TFL to complement his interception and earned the Bowl’s Sportsmanship Award for his efforts.
The victory gave Ohio State its fifth Fiesta Bowl championship, leaving it just one shy of Penn State’s leading six Fiesta Bowl victories, and second straight over Notre Dame (2006). The Irish dropped to 10-3 on the season and lost their fourth consecutive Fiesta Bowl.