Cooper's 3 TDs rally FSU past Irish, 31-26 Seminoles extend bowl win streak to 11

Orange Bowl

January 02, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- There was no championship on the line last night in the Orange Bowl -- but you couldn't tell by watching the game that saw Florida State rally in the fourth quarter for a 31-26 victory over Notre Dame.

The Seminoles and the Fighting Irish played as if their very reputations depended on the outcome. And in their minds it did.

The Irish were trying to restore Notre Dame's reputation. They had finished 6-5-1 in 1994 and needed a six-game, season-ending winning streak just to get to this otherwise, somewhat meaningless Orange Bowl.

In their minds, respect was on the line.

For the Seminoles, it also was about respect. They had been the preseason No. 1 pick and had held the ranking for seven weeks before losing their first Atlantic Coast Conference game ever and winding up with two losses in their final four games.

The last thing Florida State wanted was to come in here and wreck the only other streak it owned -- a 10-game bowl winning streak and 13-game postseason unbeaten streak.

"That bowl streak was definitely going through our minds out there," said Florida State receiver Andre Cooper, who earned game MVP honors with a record three touchdown receptions, including the game-winner with 6:09 to play. "We didn't want to see that streak end. We'd already lost the ACC streak, we definitely didn't want this one to disappear."

It was touch and go for a while, as Notre Dame took a 12-point lead. But Florida State rallied as a sendoff for the game that was staged in this Orange Bowl for the last time before moving to Joe Robbie Stadium next year.

"We're very fortunate to win this ballgame," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "Lou Holtz is a master at preparing his team. Listening to him all week, I wondered if he had a chance. There in the fourth quarter, I wondered if we had a chance.

"I was thinking we were going to get ourselves beat. They had momentum. Then we stepped on the end line and they had some extra momentum. I wouldn't have given you a plug nickel for our chances right then."

It was Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell who inadvertently stepped on the line in the fourth quarter to give Notre Dame a safety and possession, which the Irish turned into a touchdown. But Kanell would go on to shed the goat's horns.

He set an Orange Bowl record with four TD passes, including two within 2:51 after the safety to stage an unbelievable comeback.

"It was tough," said Kanell, who completed 20 of 32 for 290 yards, the fourth-biggest yardage production in Orange Bowl history. "But this team has overcome a lot of things. It was tough for me [having stepped out for the safety], but I just kept my head up. This was my last game, so I just wanted to come out and play strong. And as a team, we just kept fighting back."

There was a lot to fight back from. For three quarters, Notre Dame and its backup quarterback Tom Krug looked like the team headed for victory. The Irish had forged a 17-14 lead on two Krug touchdown passes to Derrick Mayes (39 yards and 33 yards) and a 20-yard field goal by Scott Cengia.

The Irish were doing very well on their own at that point, when Kanell and the Seminoles began to contribute.

Notre Dame punter Hunter Smith had just pinned the Seminoles back on their 1-yard line, and Kanell had dropped deep into his end zone to attempt a pass. Just as he was about to release the DTC ball, his right heel went over the end line. There was 13:44 to play and the Irish lead was five.

When the Irish took the ensuing kickoff on a 63-yard drive that Krug capped with his scoring pass to Pete Chryplewicz, it looked very bleak for Florida State, down 26-14 with 11:43 left.

But then Kanell went to work, sending Notre Dame to a defeat it found it could accept.

"I don't think there is any doubt that we got worn down," said Notre Dame's Holtz. "But I'm proud of our football team. I thought we played well. But Florida State did a tremendous job. We won't make any alibis."

NOTES: Florida State won the game despite the loss of its leading tackler, linebacker Sam Cowart, who suffered two ligament tears in his left knee in the first quarter. . . . This victory ties Bowden with Bear Bryant for the second-most victories in NCAA postseason play with 15. Only Penn State's Joe Paterno, who earned his 17th victory yesterday, has more. . . . The game drew 72,198, which was not a sellout.

Florida State 7 7 0 17 -- 31

Notre Dame .. 10 0 7 9 -- 26

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