Notre Dame versus Florida State – the older I get the more I come to respect what that game meant and continues to mean for football. As I move on, the more I come to appreciate what that first game in 1993 stood for. You cannot really recognize the importance of the moment you are in when it is happening. Even this year for these two teams it continues to be true.
Looking back on the first Notre Dame-Florida State game in 1993, it was a great honor to be a part of that game as both programs were, and still are, highly-respected football programs. Going into that game we were ranked number two only behind Florida State. Being able to beat them 31-24, and the way the game went with us winning on the final play of the game, meant a lot to us. That will probably go down as one of the best games, if not the greatest, in Notre Dame history. Winning that magnitude of a game was huge for us as we were in such a push for the national championship at that time.
The following year we met in Orlando, Fla. It was an awesome game. Just because of the historic tradition of each program, any time these two teams get together it’s going to be a great game. This year should not be any different.
We played them again in the 1996 Orange Bowl, though that was a different scenario. Playing in that big of a bowl game as the culmination of the season, it was huge way to end the year and my career at Notre Dame. Playing the Seminoles in my last collegiate game meant a lot to me. It was a great game that could have gone either way, but unfortunately for us we lost 31-26. There are many memories that come mind when I think of this new rivalry between these two storied programs.
There have been so many good players on both sides through the years, and again this year. You can rank a Notre Dame-Florida State game right up there with a Notre Dame-Michigan or Notre Dame-USC game although they do not have the same amount of years behind them. This has been one of the more contemporary rivalries that has been created. Regardless of each team’s record this year, both teams are circling this game as a big one. This year, with the game being at home, is a huge opportunity for Notre Dame, especially after last year’s big win down in Tallahassee, Fla. So in that way, that it is a home game for us this year, it parallels the game in 1993.
Again this year, this game is going to be one of the biggest games of the season. It is a big game for each team in terms of their seasons and where each program is trying to move in the future. There have been some great names on each side in the past including Florida State’s Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks and Bobby Bowden, who at this point in his career is trying to return the program to the levels it used to be at.
In that way, there are many parallels in today’s game between Notre Dame and Florida State. The two coaches, in Coach Willingham and Coach Bowden, trying to bounce their teams back and get them going in the right direction. It’s a pivotal game for both programs. It all depends on how the players respond to the challenge and who comes to play.
For the sake of the season, this is another chance for Notre Dame to learn about themselves and its team. For this year’s team, they should take with them how hard they have worked to get where they are and its preparation, attitude and effort in this game. That’s what I want this year’s team to take with them. People will remember what took place on that field and whether you win or lose, but more importantly, how these young men carry themselves on the field on that day.
The good old days are created now, these young men need to take with them the importance of the game, but also what it means to play for Notre Dame and be a part of tradition and history that is Notre Dame football.
God Bless and Go Irish!
Derrick Mayes, 1992-95
Notre Dame Class of ’95