Bowden, for one, thinks Florida State, Irish can match the hype

Phil Jackman

November 11, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Forty-eight hours and counting. . .

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden says, "I'll be surprised if more than three points separate the teams" while discussing Saturday's showdown between his No. 1 Seminoles and second-ranked Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Then he quickly indicates that he thinks it'll be a lot closer than that. Asked if he thinks the 1:35 p.m. matchup on NBC has a chance of living up to its hype and proving a classic, he replied, "It's certainly got a chance. I think it can be right up there with the Michigan State-Notre Dame game of 1966 or the Army-Notre Dame of 1946."

They, incidentally, were both ties with the national championship on the line. It seemed unnecessary for the coach to inform his listeners that "because of my age, I know a lot more about Notre Dame than anyone on our team or staff."

* Irish coach Lou Holtz and Bowden go back a long way, Holtz taking a William & Mary team to play at West Virginia when Bowden was there in 1970. The Mountaineers won, 41-7, and, as Holtz recalls, "I thought he ran up the score. But he told me afterwards it was my job to hold down the score, not his."

Bowden says, "I guess I should apologize to coaches and schools for some of the scores, but that's the way I am. I remember taking my first-string backfield out one time when we were ahead 28-0 at the end of the first quarter and the guys came to me and said it was unfair considering they had worked so hard in practice and I was depriving them of the opportunity of improving their statistics. I kind of thought they were right."

* Notre Dame safety John Covington has a neat middle name: Shaft. He's a Florida resident (Winter Haven) the Seminoles let get away, perhaps overlooking him because he's from a family of 20 kids. Covington started as a DB for the Irish, then spent a year as a defensive end before returning to the secondary. In what is considered one of Notre Dame's best defensive backfields ever, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Covington is known as the hit man.

* After Maryland rumbled for 453 yards of offense against Florida State last week, including 118 yards by Allen Williams running right up the gut, Terps quarterback Scott Milanovich said, "I think Notre Dame may look at the film of this game and steal a few things."

* Unlike most coaches, Bowden doesn't resist comparing his squad with teams of the past, but he says, "I just don't know how good we are. In 1991, we were 10-0, which is one up on what we are now, and we lost our last two games. We've still got four tough ballgames to win, but we have a chance to be the best."

* It was about five years ago when Notre Dame and Miami were looking to part company and the Irish called Florida State. "It was like being anointed," Bowden recalls . "I don't know of any [school] that wouldn't want to play Notre Dame. It's a privilege. I didn't know we were going into the ACC at the time, but we had to accept the challenge."

This is the second meeting between the teams, the Seminoles winning the first one, 19-13, in South Bend in 1981. "I hope the weather is as pretty this time. It was a beautiful fall day," Bowden recalls. The Irish were on their way to a 5-6 record in Gerry Faust's first year as coach.

* Only Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli had a season with a better passing completion percentage among all of Notre Dame's fabled quarterbacks than that currently being carried by Irish signal caller Kevin McDougal. He's 71-for-113 (.628), beating such players as Joe Montana (.542), Rick Mirer (.556) and Joe Theismann (.578). Bertelli, in his trophy year, was 25-for-36 (.694).

* After backup Danny Kanell had tied a school record with five touchdown passes in FSU's 49-20 victory over Maryland, a Florida scribe inquired if he might get the call over returning quarterback Charlie Ward for the Notre Dame fray. Bowden looked at him quizzically and answered, gently, "No, I'd say Charlie will be in there barring his getting run over by a train . . . and he'll be in there even if he does get run over by a train."

* In the book "Shake Down The Thunder -- The Creation of Notre Dame Football," there's a picture of a poster touting a Notre Dame-Army game as "The Game of the Century." The year is 1926, the Irish won, 7-0, in Yankee Stadium, and it might have been the first time the "Century" designation was used. These days, it seems, there are at least two games of the century every year.

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