I may have graduated from Notre Dame in the spring of 1993, but in the fall of that year, you sure wouldn’t have known it. I was working in my first full time job in St. Louis, but one of my Notre Dame pals who was a senior that 1993-1994 year was an EMT during the football games, and so I may have “borrowed” her student ticket book, and attended every home game that 1993 season. That ‘93 Notre Dame Fighting Irish squad was fun to watch, and the #1 vs #2 match-up against the Florida State Seminoles, the “Game of the Century,” was no exception. I have had a chance to talk to several of the guys on the ‘93 squad about that game, and I love hearing it straight from them. Here are some memories from the 1993 ND-FSU game … straight from the guys who played in it!
(One other notable memory I have from the ND-FSU game in 1993 … my seats were three rows behind OJ Simpson and Marcus Allen. Little did we know how that friendship was going to play out… )
“It was the Game of the Century, #1 (FSU) vs. #2(ND). It was my senior year. I was recruited out of Florida and FSU was the first school to offer me a scholarship. I had a lot of friends from high school that attended FSU and two of my best friends on the team (Tiger McMillon, RB and Corey Sawyer, DB). I returned all of the kickoffs for the game, but the opening kickoff was electric and the stadium was an unforgettable scene. I had a couple of catches for big plays, I also remember a “crack back” block to spring Lee Becton for a big play. ND won and we moved to #1 and remained undefeated. It was one of the greatest games I played in as a Notre Dame football player.”
“What stood out the most for me was, after the Navy game the week before, and heading into the Florida State game, we knew it was going to be a pretty highly ranked match-up. We knew we’d move up in the polls, and they were considered the best team anyone had seen in a decade. The crazy thing was, our week of practice that week was just like any other week. We didn’t do anything special. Of course, we put in a few new wrinkles for them, but Coach Holtz wanted us to focus on ourselves, and our game, and that’s exactly what we did. We literally played the exact game plan we practiced all we, and it worked perfectly. There is one play I remember, it was a scoring touchdown for me. It was in the second quarter, and we called the play ‘25 Power.’ People who know football know that no play ever goes exactly how you draw it up. There’s always some variation that happens, or a guy doesn’t do what you expected him to do; but that play ran exactly how it was drawn up. Everybody blocked down. It was just perfect, and I was able to go in for a 26 yard run untouched. That was the level of execution we played at in that game.”
“As far as atmosphere goes, that was one of the most electric atmospheres I have ever played in. The crowd was absolutely amazing. Back then, people started tailgating days early. By Wednesday, the parking lot was full with RVs. We’d be going to practice, and there were fans lined up to see us. It was definitely not a normal game week.”
“The play that stands out the most in my mind was the reverse in the ’93 Florida State game. Everything surrounding that game was quite memorable, though. The campus turned into a zoo the week before the game with all of the media frenzy, but of course you still have to go to class because you have academic requirements. Coach (Lou) Holtz told us, ‘yes it’s a big game, but we still have to do things the way we always do things. Missing class to go to an interview is not an excuse.’ The RVs were already showing up on campus on Monday. I had just come back from a knee injury, and the FSU game was my first game back. When Adrian Jarrell ran that reverse play, Todd Norman, Aaron Taylor, and myself were all up on the line, with Jarrell behind us. The entire FSU defense bit on the reverse play except for their defensive back, Clifton Abraham. All I can remember is seeing Abraham’s eyes get really big as he saw the three of us coming at him. Then you hear the crowd light up and you knew that it was going to be a big play. You just pray there are no flags.”
Having an older brother to share these special moments with meant a lot for Ryan. His brother had already left school when they played FSU in ’93, but his Notre Dame family made sure that his brother could be there to share the moment with him. “The year we played FSU, my brother Pat had left Notre Dame early to go into the baseball draft (he later came back to finish his degree). He couldn’t sign up for football tickets because his minor league baseball season ran into the first week of school. Our family had run out of tickets for that game, and we didn’t have a ticket for Pat. There was a stadium usher by the name of Bob Schultheis, who used to mow my grandfather’s lawn when he lived in South Bend. He and I had gotten to know each other, and so I asked him if by any chance he would be able to get Pat into the FSU game. Not only did he get my brother a ticket, the ticket was one of the seats down on the field. (Back then they had benches down on the field in between the boxes.) I’m coming off the field after a play and I look up to see my brother sitting on the sidelines. It was such an exciting win. After the game I snuck Pat into the locker room with the rest of the team and we sang the Notre Dame fight song together. ‘Notre Dame, Our Lady, Queen of Victory … pray for us!’ Being able to sing the fight song with my brother was a huge moment for me. When we were kids, my Grandmother Leahy would give us ice cream money if we would sing the fight song for her.”
“Upsetting Florida State and Heisman trophy winner Charlie Ward in 1993 was a pretty memorable game as well. But probably the most memorable game for me would have to be the Boston College game the following week. I will never forget it. We were so close to going undefeated and playing for a national title. To lose to a team that we should not have lost to was heartbreaking. I would have rather been beat down or blown out than to lose by a last second field goal like that.”
“One of the most memorable moments for me during my time at Notre Dame was the 1993 Notre Dame-FSU game during my fifth year. Notre Dame and FSU came into that game ranked number one and number two and the touchdown that I scored on the reverse in that game was a big moment for me. Florida State scored quickly on the opening drive, which made the home crowd a little uneasy. The touchdown that I scored tied the game up and we never looked back after that play. I was a fifth-year senior, and it was my first game back after missing the first 10 games of the season because I tore six ribs from my sternum just six days before the season started. I worked hard all season to make a comeback and be able to play in that game. It was great to be able to get out there for the Florida State game and to be able to showcase my talent once again.”
“The match up against Florida State my senior year was incredible. The atmosphere surrounding that game was unreal. It was the first time that ESPN had traveled to a college football site (the beginning of ESPN College Game Day). The whole experience was pretty unique. When you look back at that game everyone talked about Florida State’s offense and defense and Notre Dame’s offense, but no one talked one bit about our defense. We proved, soundly, to be the difference maker in that game.”
“The experience of getting to play football at Notre Dame was such a joyful one for me. The ’93 Notre Dame–Florida State game when I broke up Charlie Ward’s final pass and secured the win is probably what most people remember me for, but that moment was a high and a low for me. Yes, we won the game, but I also tore my ACL during that game. An extreme high, and an extreme low all at once. Seeing the number one sign lit up on the top of Grace Hall was a pretty great memory for me too, even if it was only for one week. That right there is the reason why you play college ball – to have those great moments.”
“When we beat Florida State my freshman year (1993), the ‘Game of the Century,’ everything about that game was truly memorable. The energy on campus that whole week before; the media hype surrounding the game; watching the students rush the field after the game. It was simply amazing. We had a bye the week before and there were so many people on campus that week. It was tough going to class with all of the news media around. It was like nothing we had ever experienced before. That was the very first ESPN College Game Day. When I think back to that moment, all of the students on the field, watching the clock hit zero, we felt that we were so disrespected going into the game and finally we were going to get the respect we felt we deserved. Winning was great, but we should have beat them by a lot more (the Irish beat the Seminoles 31-24). The score didn’t really represent how good we really were.”
“The win over Florida State my freshman year was amazing. To go into that game as an underdog and come out on top was a great feeling for us. My favorite Coach Holtz story happened the week before the Florida State game in 1993. It was the Wednesday prior to the game and I don’t think one pundit had picked us to win. They were this gargantuan power and we were the lowly guys who should not even be on the same field as them, with a quarterback who did not even come close to competing with their amazing Charlie Ward. Coach Holtz called us in to the defensive meeting room in the ACC. He then started going through our team, player by player, down the starting lineup and compared each one of our guys with Florida State’s corresponding player. He explained why Florida State had no business being on the field with ‘us’ and how our players were more talented than each one of their players. It was the best psychological exercise I’d ever seen. It was so clear to us. I think every one of us walked out of that meeting convinced that we had already won the game and that we didn’t even need to play it. We knew that we could beat them and that we would beat them. We meditated before every game. Coach Holtz was big on making sure you were in the right mental space before taking the field to play the game. The power of your mental psyche over what you can do physically is amazing. It’s like flipping on a switch in your head. At that meeting before the Florida State game I saw really how good he was as a coach.”
And last but not least …
“The Florida State game was unbelievable for so many reasons. To begin with we had just become the number one team in the nation, so for a week I quarterbacked the number one team in the nation and not many quarterbacks can say that. There was so much media hype surrounding that week. It was the first ESPN College Game Day ever. So many big people were there, including Bob Costas. Very surreal. ”
I know we don’t have an epic #1 vs #2 battle on our hands this weekend, but no team comes into Notre Dame stadium and just rolls over and plays dead. Everyone comes in with their A game, especially this year … everyone is on the hunt to upset Notre Dame. I’m not looking for us to blow out the Seminoles, but I’d love to not be holding my breath for the entire game. What say you … what do you expect to see this weekend?
Cheers & GO IRISH!