25 things about No. 1 FSU vs. No. 2 Notre Dame, 25 years later

We rewatched one of the games of the century to see Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Skip Holtz and O.J. Simpson.
Charlie Ward vs. Notre Dame made for one of the games of the century in 1993. [ TIMES FILE ]
Charlie Ward vs. Notre Dame made for one of the games of the century in 1993. [ TIMES FILE ]
Published November 9 2018
Updated November 9 2018

Saturday's meeting between Florida State and No. 3 Notre Dame might not be a fitting tribute to the 25th anniversary of one of the games of the century.

Instead, we rewatched the original NBC telecast of the No. 2 Irish's 31-24 win over the top-ranked (and eventual national champion) Seminoles. Here are 25 thoughts from that grainy footage, including some moments that seem antiquated and others that will echo tonight in South Bend:

1.  There's no pregame hype video set to Fall Out Boy or Imagine Dragons. Just Bob Costas narrating about "the kind of day dreamed of in a backyard, just around the corner from Main Street," with footage of children running in the park by an American flag.

2. The game marked the first time ESPN's College GameDay took its show on the road. Who would have thought it'd explode into the lovable circus it is today?

3. The most jarring sight: O.J. Simpson as a sideline reporter. Seven months afterward, he was riding on the freeway in a white Ford Bronco.

4. FSU coach Bobby Bowden told NBC that he probably shouldn't have gone to the Maryland game the week before because "I was truly looking past that game to this one." Can't imagine Nick Saban saying that.

5. FSU linebacker (and future Buc) Derrick Brooks had the first two tackles. It wouldn't be a surprise if his son DeCalon gets the first two this weekend for the 'Noles.

6. When Brooks injured his ankle early, there was no injury tent. NBC's cameras were in his face, and Simpson even asked him (off camera) about switching cleats. That doesn't happen today.

Florida State's Derrick Brooks played in the 1993 Notre Dame classic despite an injured ankle. [ TIMES FILE ]
Florida State’s Derrick Brooks played in the 1993 Notre Dame classic despite an injured ankle. [ TIMES FILE ]
7. FSU quarterback Charlie Ward had a special, ring-shaped pad to protect his injured ribs. Notre Dame QB Ian Book is out this week because of … injured ribs.

8.  The first of Ward's three touchdown passes went to Kevin Knox. His son, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox, currently is a rookie for the Knicks, Ward's NBA team from 1994-2004.

9. Even against a great FSU run defense, Notre Dame didn't want to pass more than 25 times. In 90 games with the Irish, current coach Brian Kelly has only 17 games with fewer than 25 pass attempts.

10. Another sign of how much offenses have changed: Ward entered the game with 2,011 passing yards. That would rank 45th nationally today.

11. But there are similarities, too. Notre Dame quarterback Kevin McDougal had a designed scramble when he could have thrown it. Except announcers called it a "pass-run option," not an RPO.

12. NBC reminded viewers how FSU's offense exploded (19 more points per game) after spreading out three or four receivers in its Fast Break Offense in 1992. Sounds similar to how Willie Taggart saved his job at USF (and got the one at FSU) by switching to the Gulf Coast Offense.

13. The College Football Playoff isn't perfect, but seeing the Bowl Coalition Poll standings (with on-probation Auburn at No. 7) is a reminder that things could be worse.

14. It was only the 28th time in 50 years the top two teams played each other. That matchup has happened twice in the Playoff and every year in the BCS.

15.  It's weird watching a game without the yellow first-down line, or the ticker of other game scores, or even a static graphic with the score and time left in the game you're watching.

16. Notre Dame defensive back Jeff Burris rushed for two touchdowns on FSU, so there is a precedent for Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins running for one on the Seminoles two weeks ago.

17. A name I didn't expect to hear as FSU's holder: Danny Kanell, who became an NFL quarterback and TV analyst.

18. NBC analyst Todd Christensen on the Irish: "They have just a great team —not a lot of individuals that stand out." That's true this week, too. Notre Dame has a good roster playing better than the sum of its parts.

19. Both teams used fullbacks often. FSU doesn't even have one on its roster anymore; Johnathan Vickers and Gabe Nabers moved to tight end.

20. When FSU had only 33 rushing yards late in the first half, the announcers wondered whether the Seminoles would even get to 100. Given the current state of FSU's offensive line, they'll probably wonder the same thing tonight.

21. It was not a surprise to see future Bucs running back Warrick Dunn catch a screen pass, make a nice juke and score a touchdown in the third quarter…

22. … But it was a surprise to hear that Dunn wanted to redshirt because he didn't think his body was ready yet. How many freshmen think that way today?

23. NBC pointed out that then-Irish assistant Skip Holtz wasn't a nepotism hire by then-head coach Lou Holtz. Eighteen years later, Skip coached USF to a 23-20 win at Notre Dame.

24. The most out-of-place remark was when FSU fullback William Floyd (Lakewood High) lay on the ground after flipping over the Irish's bench. "He's got a little bit of a headache," one of the announcers said. That comment wouldn't fly in this concussion era, and Floyd wouldn't have returned two plays later.

25. Conspiracy theories later circulated about whether Notre Dame kept the grass higher than usual to slow down FSU's offense. But Simpson said on the telecast that the field was in the best shape he had ever seen it. "It's a testament that Notre Dame wants to see the best team win here today," Simpson said.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.