April 2, 2011

Reliving the Game of the Century: #1 Florida State vs. #2 Notre Dame - 1993

By - Brian Harrington

My colleagues post over the 1992 East Regional Final inspired me to write about a few of the biggest games of my life so far. Games that have included some of my favorite teams or players, and helped make me the sports fan that I am today.

First up is the 1993 regular season match-up between the #1 Florida State Seminoles and the #2 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. A game that many, including myself, believe is one of the greatest games in the history of college football. In fact, it's been dubbed by many as, "The Game of the Century".

The date was November 13th, 1993. 12 days shy of my 15th birthday. Being brought up catholic, I'd grown up a Notre Dame fan. I tell people being an Irish fan just comes with the membership. It's much bigger than that though. This is one of the few teams in sports that I can say I actually LOVE. So, when they were about to play the #1 team in the land, with a chance to be #1 with a win late in the season, that would have almost guaranteed them a shot at the national championship. I just knew this could be the year they would win it all. This game also marked the very first ESPN College GameDay show before a game. This was big, considering ESPN wasn't even showing the game, NBC was.

Everyone was picking Florida State to win. Lee Corso even picked them on the above mentioned GameDay. They were bigger, they were faster, they had more talent. Florida State had all the star power. They had star QB Charlie Ward (who would go on to win the Heisman trophy that year) and future NFL star RB Warrick Dunn. Notre Dame had probably no one you could name off the top of your head today. Florida State was a two touchdown favorite to win.

Photo by: Damien Strohmeyer
The game opened with the Seminoles driving 89 yards on 10 plays as Ward hit WR Kevin Knox on a 12 yard TD pass. As Knox knelt in the end zone after the catch, a hush fell over Notre Dame Stadium. Then things changed. After that score, Florida State wouldn't score again until 4:45 was left in the THIRD quarter. That season, FSU averaged 563 yards per game. Notre Dame would hold them to just 39 yards in the first half on the way to a 21-7 lead. The first time in 23 games the Seminoles trailed at halftime.

32 minutes would go by between Florida State's first and second touchdowns. The Notre Dame defense knew the Seminoles offense relied heavily on Charlie Ward, and they put the pressure on him all day. But early in the 4th quarter, the Irish defense started to tire out, and Ward started to get hot. He would score the next 2 touchdowns, including a pass on 4th and 20 with just 1:39 left in the game, that was tipped by Irish safety Brian McGee and fell into the hands of Seminole WR Kez McCorvey. FSU cut the Irish lead to 31-24. All Notre Dame needed to do was kill the next minute and a half, but that didn't happen.

FSU held Notre Dame without a first down and partially blocked the punt to get the ball at their own 37 with 51 seconds left to play and no timeouts. My heart rate at that point was through the roof. Ward drove the Seminoles 49 yards, and with 3 seconds left, had time for one more play. He took the snap, rolled to his left, and fired a pass toward the end zone. Irish defensive back Shawn Wooden batted the ball down to seal the Notre Dame victory as thousands of fans rushed the field in pandemonium. I was the happiest guy in the world at that moment. My Irish would now be the #1 team in the land.

Photo from: ndsmcobserver.com
Sadly though, my elation would only last a week. Their very next game, Notre Dame was upset at home by Boston College 41-39 on a last second 41 yard FG.

Florida State would go on to win the title that year with a 18-16 win over Nebraska in the championship game. The Cornhuskers missed a FG at the gun to seal it for the Seminoles.

Notre Dame has not been #1 since that week following the win over Florida State. The last time they were close was in 2002, when they lost to Michigan in week two after starting the season ranked #2.

I can only hope that someday my team can get back to it's glory days. Regardless, I'll always remember that great game they gave me back in 1993.