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Notre Dame Football: The Game of the Century and the Game Ahead

No pandemic will shift the Irish mentality.

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Notre Dame v Florida State Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The 2020 season is not even over yet and it still seems as if Notre Dame fans have seen it all. There has been the spread of the coronavirus among the team and ACC patches of all things on Irish jerseys — but the guys wearing the gold and blue have still been able to get after it and to get it done.

As the Irish prepare to take on the Florida State Seminoles, the excitement calls to mind the hype around the two squads’ Game of the Century in 1993. Irish fans saw their guys push to get one step ahead of speedy Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward and eventually overpower the #1-ranked Seminoles 31-24.

Throw it Back

I spoke to former Irish linebacker Justin Goheen about preparing for the historic game and the leadership that has come to define the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program.

The 1993 matchup served as the backdrop of the first College GameDay broadcast, and Goheen recalled, “...a tremendous amount of excitement and buzz.” On the influx of RVs and craziness, he explained, “Everything was happening days earlier than it normally did. Coach Holtz just always did a phenomenal job of keeping everyone kind of dialed in. We had such a great routine that kind of helped that, and we didn’t vary from that routine and even though it was a huge game — exciting game, you kept to your normal practice schedule.”

Goheen explained, “From a defensive standpoint, we had a bit of a chip on our shoulders,” as sports talk personalities gave the spotlight to the Florida State offense leading up to the game. However, it was an explosive Irish pass rush that came to determine the final score.

Following an immediate Irish loss to Boston College and an FSU Orange Bowl victory, it was the Seminoles who claimed the championship that season. After moving to South Florida, former Irish cornerback Shawn Wooden naturally encountered and connected with former Seminoles. In a 2018 IndyStar article, Wooden said, “They don’t really complain much... because they have the ring. They just start twirling that ring on their finger, and you pretty much have to shut up.”

When it comes to Lou Holtz’s leadership style, it was the emphasis on “accountability, to your teammates and to the school and to the tradition of Notre Dame,” that Goheen highlighted. He went on to detail Holtz’s dedication to the Notre Dame legacy and explained, “Notre Dame is a lot bigger than just that year or that team or that staff or those coaches, it was bigger than him.”

Fast Forward

Nearly three decades later, Brian Kelly instills that same discipline among today’s Irish through the defining “next man in” mindset. Kelly prepares each player to go all-in at the last minute. Ahead of last season’s opener, Ian Book said, “I feel like every game at Notre Dame’s kind of a statement game. You know, we have a big target on our back. You know, a lot of haters, a lot of doubters out there… try to treat every game like a playoff game.”

To the Irish, the “next man in” mentality is now more critical than ever as the novel coronavirus continues to spread. To this Notre Dame squad, it’s about playing like ACC champions!

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