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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Football VS. Florida State 2002

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“To come in here and win was a big thing for our program. Now we just have to keep on moving.”

Notre Dame v FSU
TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 26: Quarterback Carlyle Holiday #7 of Notre Dame runs right as he looks for a receiver during the NCAA football game against FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 26, 2002 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Florida State Seminoles 34-24.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

As we look forward to the third game of the 2020 Notre Dame football season vs. Florida State, I am going to spend this week’s Throwback Thursday post looking back to the 2002 Notre Dame vs. FSU game.

Notre Dame and Florida State have played each other nine times, with the Irish winning three times, and the Seminoles winning six times.

  • 11/10/2018 - Notre Dame 42-13
  • 10/18/2014 - Florida State 27-31
  • 12/29/2011 - Florida State 14-18 (Champs Sports Bowl)
  • 11/1/2003 - Florida State 0-37
  • 10/26/2002 - Notre Dame 34-24
  • 1/1/1996 - Florida State 26-31 (Orange Bowl)
  • 11/12/1994 - Florida State 16-23
  • 11/13/1993 - Notre Dame 31-24
  • 10/10/1981 - Florida State 13-19

In 2002, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team headed down to Tallahassee, Florida, to play the Florida State Seminoles on October 26th. The Irish were led by first year head coach Tyrone Willingham, and the Seminoles had their beloved Bobby Bowden at the helm.

With the Irish ranked 6th (7-0 and a 10-point underdog headed into the game), and the Seminoles ranked 11th, ESPN decided it was the perfect stop for College Game Day.

Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images

Notre Dame got on the scoreboard first when Carlyle Holiday connected with wideout Arnaz Battle for a 65-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game. It was the first time the Irish had scored on their initial offensive play since another October 26th game (1985) vs. USC, when Allen Pinkett had a two-yard TD run after a Trojan fumble on the opening kickoff.

Florida State’s offense easily out-performed Notre Dame 418-301, but the Irish defense came to play and forced four turnovers, three of which occurred in a four-minute span, and three of which turned into Irish scores. Florida native Courtney Watson had an interception that set up an Irish score, and cornerback Vontez Duff had a fumble recovery at the 2-yard line, followed by the Irish offense punching it into the end zone one play later. The other two turnovers were at the hands of Glenn Earl and Brandon Hoyte.

Florida State also didn’t help themselves by committing 11 penalties.

Ryan Grant sealed the Irish victory with a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Grant ended up with 19 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns.

The win earned Notre Dame its fourth over a ranked opponent in 2002; the most in one season since 1992, (also four wins). The win also improved Notre Dame’s record to 8-0 for the first time since 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games. That 1993 season was also coincidentally the only other season in which Notre Dame had defeated Florida State (prior to 2002).

Notre Dame’s win over FSU made head coach Tyrone Willingham the third coach since 1913 to win his first eight games at Notre Dame, along with Jesse Harper (1913-14 – nine) and Ara Parseghian (1964 – nine). Willingham also became the first Notre Dame coach to win his first four games against ranked teams. Frank Leahy led Notre Dame to three wins and a tie in his first four games against ranked opponents during the 1941 and 1942 seasons.

Below, Carlyle Holiday talks about the media’s predictions for Notre Dame’s trip to Tallahassee, how Coach Willingham kept them focused and prepared for the challenge ahead, and how that opening play set the tempo for the entire game.

Holiday to Battle

Holiday ended up throwing for 185 yards on the day and completed two touchdowns.

“To come in here and win was a big thing for our program,” Holiday said. “Now we just have to keep on moving.”

“I think it says we’re back,” center Jeff Faine said.

“When you watch film on Notre Dame like we did last week, you see how they win games,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. “Then you wonder how you lose the very same way. Notre Dame doesn’t make any turnovers, and they win. The biggest risk when you play Notre Dame is turnovers. … They beat everybody the same way.”

“If you can shut down the running game, which I think we were able to do and not allow them to have any big plays, then you make it difficult for them to sustain a drive,” Willingham said. “If you can eliminate them sustaining a drive, then eventually at some point a team stops themselves.”

Here are a few more game highlights from the ACC Network:

Do you think the Irish will be victorious over the Seminoles this Saturday? If so, how big of a margin do you think we’ll win by? Leave your thoughts below.

Cheers & GO IRISH!