Oct. 23, 2002

By Peter J. Stuhldreher

Following Saturday’s win over undefeated Air Force, the Notre Dame football team began preparations on Tuesday to take on Florida State this weekend. The meeting will mark the first time the two teams have played since 1995 when Florida State prevailed 31-26 in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame enters the game with a perfect 7-0 record, a No. 6 ranking in the AP and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls, and a No. 3 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series poll.

Still, the Irish will play the underdog role as they head into Tallahassee, Fla.. Notre Dame has become very familiar with playing the underdog role, but don’t tell that to offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.

“I couldn’t tell you if we are underdog or favorite,” said Diedrick.

“All I know is that we are going to be on a plane to Florida State on Friday, we play Saturday at noon eastern time, and that’s the only thing that matters.”

The offense has improved over the course of the season and had a good showing, especially rushing at Air Force. Still, Diedrick does not feel they have progressed as far as he would like. While the offense might not be running on all cylinders, he certainly does not feel extra pressure to put up big numbers against the Seminoles.

“The pressure I feel going into Florida State is having one more point than they do when we leave,” said Diedrick.

“Whether that means scoring 14, 21, 38, whatever, we have to find a way to have one more point than they do at the end of the game.”

Florida State will not make it easy for the Irish to outscore them and win the ballgame. From talented players to loud and rowdy fans, the Seminoles present many challenges to Notre Dame’s bid for 8-0 record.

“I think there are a lot of challenges, but it is a great opportunity,” said Diedrick.

“This is why you play college football, to play in games like this. They are an outstanding defense – very athletic and have a great deal of speed. This challenge will be served in a very hostile environment. It is a big challenge, but that’s why we play.”