It’s no ‘Game of the Century’ like FSU in ’93, but the Syracuse game means plenty to Notre Dame’s title hopes
SOUTH BEND – History could very well judge it as the “Game of the Century” of the “Game of the Centuries.”
Lou Holtz even said in his postgame interview on NBC that this was a game that truly did live up to all the hype – and there was plenty of it.
November 13, 1993 – No. 1 Florida State vs No. 2 Notre Dame. Both teams were undefeated at 9-0. The game was nationally televised on a Saturday afternoon. The winner stayed alive from the National Championship while the loser would have to hope for a rematch in a bowl game – or at least that was what was thought.
Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles were a budding power in College Football, but at that point was still seeking their first National Championship. Holtz’s Irish came into 1993 with a number of questions, but ran the table leading up to the showdown in South Bend on November 13th.
NBC led off their coverage with a lengthy, theatric intro to the show between the two teams. It was preceded by a week full of hype and excitement in which many arrived on campus days before to make sure they got their spot for the showdown.
ESPN’s College Gameday, at that point a studio show, took their program on remote for the first time in history because of the significance of the game. It would become a staple of the program from then on, as show goes live on campuses for the big game every week.
It was a lot of attention for a game before the BCS National Championship and the College Football Playoff era – and it all proved to be worth it.
On an unseasonably warm day at Notre Dame Stadium, 59,075 saw a classic between the Irish and the Seminoles that featured momentum changes along with big plays.
After Florida State took a 7-0 lead, a bruising Irish attack helped the Irish run off 24 unanswered points to grab a 17-point lead. Yet the visitors continued to chip away, and a Kez McCorvey touchdown pass from Charlie Ward off a deflected pass got the lead down to 7 in the fourth quarter.
The Seminoles would get the ball back, and would drive to the Notre Dame 14-yard line with three seconds left, giving Ward, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, one last chance to get to the endzone.
But his pass would be knocked down by defensive back Shawn Wooden, giving Notre Dame a 31-24 win in an epic that is still remembered well on its 25th anniversary on Tuesday.
That game was great for the Irish, but a stunning loss to Boston College the next week opened the door back up for Florida State to win the National Championship. A win in that season’s Orange Bowl over Nebraska gave the Seminoles their first championship as the 11-1 Irish had to settle for second after a Cotton Bowl win over Texas A & M.
A generation later, Notre Dame is still in search of their first National Championship since 1988, just as they were when they took the field in 1993. Once again, Irish hopes are high as the team has gone 10-0 to start the year. Now, this team faces a major mid-November hurdle for a College Football Playoff berth.
No. 13 Syracuse, who has ripped off four-straight victories after their only two losses of the season to Clemson and Pittsburgh, await the Irish in a “home game” at Yankee Stadium. The contest was moved to Yankee Stadium as part of the school’s “Shamrock Series” which takes a home game to a neutral site.
It’s different that the 1993 season, where the Irish finished with a pair of home games in hopes of getting to a spot to win a National Championship. This year the Irish have four of their last five games away from South Bend, including the season finale at USC on November 24th.
In a perfect world, Brian Kelly would have his team at Notre Dame Stadium for a big match-up with 13th ranked Syracuse, but at the moment, he’s not lamenting what could have been.
“Once that decision was made that we were going to play it, we’ve moved past that. We’ve made all the appropriations for this to be prepared for this game. So we’re really past it at this point,” said Kelly. “If you asked me in January, if we had a conversation, yeah, I would have liked it at home. But after that, it was vetted and it was decided to go to Yankee Stadium. I’ve got other things on my list I’ve got to deal with.”
At least he has quarterback Ian Book in the fold this week, back after an injury kept him out for the win over Florida State last week. That school is on the minds of a number of reflective Notre Dame fans this week, in hopes that this year they’ll be able to finish the job and bring a title back home for the first time in 30 years.