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Seminoles playing for more than just a win

Chris Federico | Friday, October 31, 2003

As if the Irish didn’t already have their hands full in hosting the fifth-ranked team in the nation Saturday in Florida State, they will also have to deal with a team bent on revenge.

After Notre Dame went into Doak Campbell Stadium last year and dominated Florida State on its home turf, the Seminoles are hungry to repay the favor this year.

Last season, the Irish scored on their first offensive play – a 65-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Arnaz Battle – en route to a convincing 34-24 victory.

The sound defeat makes Florida State coach Bobby Bowden’s task of firing up his team that much easier.

“The advantage that we have in that regard, mentally, is what happened to us last year,” Bowden said, in reference to Notre Dame’s win over the Seminoles in 2002. “They came in and just thoroughly beat us on our own home field. I think if I didn’t say nothing, they’d remember that.”

The loss still stings for many in the Florida State program. After all, the game wasn’t really as close as the score indicated as the Irish held a 34-10 lead well into the game before yielding two late touchdowns with fewer than two minutes to play. Bowden even compared Notre Dame’s play to the work of a serial killer, a comment which he later took back.

“We used to never lose a game like that in Tallahassee,” Bowden said last Sunday, recalling the game in 2002. “They came in here and just wore us out.”

The game could also serve as a battle of traditions and generations. The Irish have the long pedigree and history of college football greatness. The Seminoles, meanwhile, have a commanding recent history of their own – a sort of “Notre Dame of the 90s.”

While older generations grew up with Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy or Ara Parseghian, younger ones are more familiar with Bobby Bowden, Deion Sanders and Charlie Ward.

Florida State cornerback Stanford Samuels – who may miss the Notre Dame game due to a neck injury – is intent on not forgetting the Irish tradition, or what the Irish did to the Seminoles last year.

“I mean, we have tradition here, but they have tradition on top of tradition,” he told the Miami Herald. “Those are the things movies are made of. For that reason, I think it’s a big game. And you know it’s already a big game because of what they came down here and did to us last year.”

There are those on the Florida State squad that want redemption for individual performances against the Irish last year. Seminole quarterback Chris Rix struggled against the Irish defense last season in going 13-of-32 with 207 yards and two interceptions and a fumble before being benched.

Bowden was pleased with the way Rix handled the demotion and is confident his quarterback can redeem himself this week.

“Well, the main thing is, after it happened, he didn’t go hide in the corner somewhere, or leave,” Bowden said. “It’s all a learning experience, and it’s a learning experience that was good for him.”

And there’s sophomore tailback Lorenzo Booker, who was heavily recruited by both the Irish and Seminoles. Booker, who had given indications that he would choose Notre Dame as late as midnight before signing day, gave his commitment to the Seminoles in front of a live national audience on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Bowden noted that this will likely be a big game for the near-Domer.

“I’m sure it will [mean a lot], because he was recruited so heavily by them, and he went to a Catholic high school, so naturally, everybody assumed he would go there, or either stay in Southern Cal,” Bowden said. “We were lucky to get him.”