by John Heisler
If college football memories are made from days like these, then permit us (with apologies to fans from Florida State) to take a stroll into the past and remember what happened 10 years ago – on the last trip by the Seminoles to play at Notre Dame Stadium – when the top two teams in the country faced off in a late-season 1993 matchup:
- More than 4,000 people were turned away from the Friday night pep rally – at which backup quarterback Paul Failla brought down the house with a David Letterman-style top 10 list.
- Irish coach Lou Holtz and Seminole coach Bobby Bowden came onto the field several hours before kickoff to do a combined live interview with CNN.
- There were 810 media credentials issued for the game, breaking the Notre Dame record of 650 from the 1988 Notre Dame-Miami game.
- For the first and only time in Notre Dame Stadium history (in the old 59,075-seat configuration), 46 media were allotted folding-chair seats at the top of sections in the stands – with the 218-seat press box jam-packed (including use of 15 seats behind posts). Forty seats alone were allocated to Florida print media.
- Media who came early in the week to South Bend to cover the game took over an auxiliary gymnasium in the Joyce Center (that gym since has been turned into two floors of offices for Notre Dame Olympic sport coaches) where series of press conferences were held daily involving Holtz, his assistants and nearly every key Irish player.
- Holtz shocked the assembled media by inviting them all to his home on Thursday night before the game to eat chicken and ribs in his basement and watch the Thursday night ESPN college football game with him.
- Notre Dame and Florida State came into the game tied for the longest winning streak in the country at 16 games.
- Said Holtz before the game, “I’ve never seen a football team as impressive as Florida State.”
- One of the NBC Sports sideline reporters was O.J. Simpson.
- The Irish win marked the first time Notre Dame ever came into a #1-vs.-#2 battle in Notre Dame Stadium as the #2 team and won.
- The Notre Dame victory marked only the third time the Irish had beaten a #1-ranked opponent in Notre Dame Stadium (also Northwestern in 1936 and Miami in ’88).
- Said USC coach John Robinson before the game: “Whoever is in charge of cold weather and snow, he better get his #*#*# in gear” (temperature at kickoff was 59 degrees).
- There were plenty of connections between the two schools, with Irish offensive coordinator Skip Holtz having served as a graduate assistant coach under Bowden and Skip’s wife, Jennifer, having graduated from Florida State. In addition, Irish defensive back coach Joe Wessel had been a three-year letterwinner for the Seminoles.
- The Irish had an open date the week before the game – and the win over Florida State moved Holtz to 7-1 coming off open date weekends.
- Florida State came into the game permitting only 97 rushing yards per game, but the Irish ran for 239 ground yards, including 122 by Lee Becton. Said Bowden, “That was tremendous running of the football. Position for position, there is no one better at running the football.”
- The Notre Dame victory marked only the fifth time in history the Irish had beaten the team boasting the eventual Heisman Trophy winner (Charlie Ward went on to win it in ’93 after completing 31 of 50 throws vs. the Irish) – following wins over Oklahoma and Billy Vessels in 1952, Syracuse and Ernie Davis in 1961, USC and Mike Garrett in 1965 and Texas and Earl Campbell in 1977.
- The Notre Dame victory put Irish defensive lineman Jim Flanigan on the cover of Sports Illustrated and put defensive back John Covington on the cover of The Sporting News after his interception ended a strong of 159 straight Ward passes without a pickoff.
- An unlikely hero for Notre Dame was flanker Adrian Jarrell who scored a touchdown on a 32-yard reverse on only his third career rush (it was only his second career TD).
- Among the celebrities in attendance were Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemons and Spike Lee.
- The game marked the first time the ESPN GameDay show ever traveled to originate live from a campus.
- The game was so big the U.S. Postal Service created a commemorative postmark featuring the colors and logos of both universities.
- While more than 59,000 fans packed Notre Dame Stadium, it was estimated there were another 20,000 in the parking lots who never saw the inside of the Stadium (about 8,000 fans watched the game on the big screen in the Joyce Center).
- Even though it was only a regular-season game, it had enough impact nationally that President Bill Clinton called Holtz at home the following Monday night to congratulate him (remember Clinton had been the Arkansas governor when Holtz was head coach at Arkansas).
By the way, the final score was Notre Dame 31, Florida State 24. Enough reminiscing for today. On with this game, Notre Dame vs. Florida State for 2003.