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2011 Champs Sports Bowl Preview

Florida State Seminoles vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The 1990s feel like a long time ago. That decade won’t be so distant, however, when the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl kicks off in Orlando, Florida. Everything you knew about college football 18 years ago will come flooding back to the corners of your mind when the Citrus Bowl stadium plays host to a matchup of top-shelf brand names in the sport.

Take yourself back in time if you’re able to: In November of 1993, the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to take on the No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in one of the most-hyped regular-season games of the past 20 years. It’s reasonable to say that the presence of Notre Dame in a matchup of such significance and prominence enabled Seminoles-Irish to attain a level of buildup matched only by this year’s LSU-Alabama encounter. Florida State and Notre Dame both moved the needle in terms of national interest not just because they were recognizable programs, but because their coaches – Bobby Bowden for FSU and Lou Holtz for Notre Dame – were very media friendly, always ready with a quip or quote that would delight the national press corps. Oh, and the two teams had some special players as well. Eventual 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward commanded the Seminoles’ devastating offense, while Notre Dame was powered by defensive tackle Bryant Young, offensive tackle Aaron Taylor, and other NFL-worthy stalwarts on both lines.

Notre Dame carried the play on that gray and electric afternoon in the Midwest. The Irish gained a 31-17 lead by playing a patient sit-back defense that put seven or eight men in coverage to disrupt Florida State’s passing attack. Ward pressed for much of the afternoon and could never establish a good rhythm for two consecutive drives. However, when everything looked lost for the Seminoles, Ward – having already benefited from a lucky touchdown pass off a deflection – drove his team down the field in the final minutes of a 31-24 game. The Noles penetrated the Notre Dame red zone and had one shot from the 14-yard line on the final play of regulation, but Ward’s pass into the end zone was batted away by a Notre Dame defender. The Irish held on, adding one more memorable chapter to their novel-length collection of indelible football memories. Just over two years later, Florida State beat Notre Dame in the 1996 Orange Bowl, 31-26, but it’s Notre Dame’s 1993 win which stands out in the recent history of this particular series.

This year, Bowden and Holtz are gone, and the feel surrounding these programs is different. Florida State and Notre Dame are both coming off very disappointing regular seasons. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has squandered games for his team with suspect game management, while Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has failed to cultivate a quarterback the way he did with Tony Pike and Zach Collaros at Cincinnati. Kelly has thrown his players under the bus, specifically recruits who were brought to South Bend by former coach Charlie Weis. A win in this bowl game is needed for both coaches to hit the recruiting trail with fresh momentum.

We’ll see who wins this battle of 1993, eighteen long years later.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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