In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
In what was labeled “The Game of the Century,” #2 Notre Dame hosts #1 Florida State in South Bend. The game is so big that ESPN sends its College GameDay to a remote on-campus location for the first time. After taking a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter, the Irish held off a late charge to beat the Seminoles 31-24 as Shawn Wooten knocked away the final pass in the end zone.
Notre Dame was the historic program that was once again waking up the echoes as it sought its 12th National Championship and first in five years under coach Lou Holtz. Florida State, led by Bobby Bowden, was the new powerhouse that in recent years had come close only to see heartbreaking losses and close calls. The Seminoles were seeking their first National Championship after six straight years of finishing in the Top Five, including a #2 ranking in 1992. Both teams entered the game 9-0. The Fighting Irish slowly climbed up the rankings, thanks to an early 27-23 win over #2 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Florida State, meanwhile, was #1 from the pre-season on, as they finally beat rival Miami 28-10, who at the time was #3 in Tallahassee. The week leading up to the game on the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend became the center of the sports world. ESPN looking to capitalize and get closer to the game that was set to air on NBC, sent its Morning Pregame show College GameDay to the campus in Indiana. It marked the first time that the College GameDay show was at a remote location, beginning what would become a weekly ritual for ESPN’s College Football coverage.
With the buzz of a National Championship, Florida State drew first blood with Kevin Knox Sr catching a 12-yard pass from Charlie Ward midway through the first quarter. Notre Dame quickly answered with Adrian Jarrell scoring on a 32-yard run off a reverse to tie the game. On the way to a 122-yard rushing game, Lee Becton gave the Irish the lead with a 26-yard run early in the second. Notre Dame would add a six-yard touchdown run by Jeff Burris to take a 21-7 halftime lead. The Irish continued the momentum in the third quarter with a 47-yard field goal from Kevin Pendergast to make it 24-7. The Seminoles began to get back in the game as Warrick Dunn caught a six-yard pass from Charlie Ward. Scott Bentley got the deficit down to seven points with a 24-yard field goal. Notre Dame would stretch the lead out to 31-17 on a second touchdown by Jeff Burris, this one for 11 yards. Now facing desperation and 4th and Goal, the Seminoles got a third touchdown pass from Ward to Kez McCorvey from the Notre Dame 20. After the Irish failed to take time off the clock, Charlie Ward was able to drive down to the Notre Dame 14 with three seconds left. Looking to tie the game, Ward’s pass was batted down by Shawn Wooden to preserve the 31-24 win.
Notre Dame would spend just one week at #1, as they were upset a week later by Boston College 41-39 on a David Gordon Field Goal. Notre Dame finished the regular season 10-1 and beat #6 Texas A&M 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl. After the loss, Florida State, who dropped the #2, was back at #1 following a 62-3 win over NC State. They would beat rival Florida in the Swamp 33-21 to finish 11-1 in the regular season, with Charlie Ward winning the Heisman Trophy. The Seminoles would beat Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl, which served as the de facto National Championship.