For just the second time in the 114-year history of Notre Dame football, the Irish are selecting captains on a game-by-game basis. The only other time Notre Dame chose captains in this fashion was 1946 under legendary head coach Frank Leahy. Today's Irish captains were: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, RCB Shane Walton and ILB Courtney Watson. Both Battle and Faine were serving as captains for the fourth time this season, while Walton is a captain for the third time and Watson is a captain for the second time in 2002.
Notre Dame won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half. Florida State elected to receive, while the Irish chose to defend the South goal.
Today's game marks the 145th sellout in the last 168 games involving Notre Dame.
Counting postseason play, Notre Dame has now had its last 119 games televised on one of four networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN), a stretch going back more than nine full seasons. The last time the Irish didn't appear on one of those four networks was Oct. 31, 1992, when they defeated Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium. That game was only shown locally in South Bend on WNDU-TV.
The Irish win back-to-back road games over ranked opponents at their home stadiums for the first time in school history. Prior to last Saturday's 21-14 victory at No. 18 Air Force, Notre Dame had not defeated a ranked opponent in its home stadium since a 24-6 win at No. 11 LSU on Nov. 15, 1997.
Notre Dame earns its fourth win over a ranked opponent this year, the most in one season since 1992 (also four wins).
Notre Dame posts its third win this season over a ranked opponent away from home, having also downed No. 18 Air Force and No. 21 Maryland in Kickoff Classic XX at Giants Stadium. The last time the Irish won three times over ranked opponents away from home in the same season was 1990. That year, Notre Dame defeated No. 24 Michigan State (20-19), No. 9 Tennessee (34-29) and No. 18 USC (10-6), all outside the familiar surroundings of Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame opens its season 8-0 for the first time since 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games and ascended to No. 1 in the polls. Coincidentally, that season also marked the only other time Notre Dame had defeated Florida State (prior to today).
The Irish extend their current winning streak to nine games, their longest since another nine-game run from Oct. 7, 1995-Sept. 21, 1996.
Willingham also becomes the first Notre Dame coach to record wins in his first four games against ranked teams. Frank Leahy guided the Irish to three wins and a tie in his first four encounters with ranked opponents during the 1941 and 1942 seasons.
Notre Dame is only the fourth school to defeat Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in the last 90 Seminole games at the facility, dropping FSU to 84-5-1 at home in that time. Besides the Irish, the only other teams to win at Campbell Stadium since 1989 are Miami (twice), Clemson and North Carolina State.
The Irish register their first win over a Florida school since a 31-24 triumph over top-ranked Florida State on Nov. 13, 1993.
Notre Dame picks up its first road win at a Florida school since a 48-10 win at Miami on Dec. 3, 1977. The victory was the precursor to a 38-10 Irish win over No. 1 Texas in the '78 Cotton Bowl and Notre Dame's 10th national championship.
The Irish raise their all-time record against the Atlantic Coast Conference to 48-11-1 (.808), preserving the second-best winning percentage against one conference in school history.
Notre Dame wins for the 20th time in its last 21 October games, dating back to the 1997 season. The Irish also improve to 52-8 (.867) in the month of October since the 1988 campaign.
Since opening the 2001 season at 0-3, Notre Dame is 13-3 (.813) in its last 16 games. In all three of those losses (vs. Boston College, Tennessee and Stanford in 2001), the Irish had possession with an opportunity to tie or take the lead in the final five minutes.
Notre Dame's 34 points in today's game, and its 10 first-quarter points were its highest outputs this season.
Notre Dame scored on its first offensive play of the game, as junior QB Carlyle Holiday connected with senior WR Arnaz Battle on a 65-yard touchdown pass with 12:40 left in the first quarter. It was the first time the Irish had scored on their initial offensive play since Oct. 26, 1985 vs. USC, when Allen Pinkett had a two-yard TD run following a Trojan fumble on the opening kickoff.
The Holiday-to-Battle touchdown was the quickest score by Notre Dame since Oct. 13, 2001 vs. West Virginia, on Julius Jones' 19-yard TD run with 13:45 remaining in the first quarter.
The 65-yard TD pass from Holiday to Battle was the longest pass completion of Holiday's career, and the longest reception of Battle's career. Holiday's previous long were a pair of 47-yard strikes to Omar Jenkins (2001 vs. Stanford, 2002 vs. Michigan). Battle's previous long catch was a 60-yard TD reception from Pat Dillingham earlier this season vs. Michigan State.
Notre Dame added a 39-yard field goal from PK Nicholas Setta on its second possession. It marks the first time the Irish scored on their first two offensive possessions of a game since Oct. 13, 2001 vs. West Virginia. That day, Julius Jones scored on a 19-yard run, followed by a 21-yard field goal from Setta.
PK Nicholas Setta converted all four of his PAT today, extending his streak of consecutive extra points made to 77. The last time Setta missed a PAT was Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Stanford. His streak is the second-longest in Notre Dame history (136 by Craig Hentrich from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992).
Florida State tied the game at 10-10 late in the second quarter on a one-yard plunge by Torrance Washington. It was just the second offensive touchdown allowed by the Irish defense in 54 first-half possessions this season (other was a first-quarter score by Stanford).
Notre Dame now has been tied or led at the half in seven of its eight games this season (10-10 today).
Senior ILB Courtney Watson recorded his second interception of the season, and the third of his career midway through the third quarter. Notre Dame cashed in on the turnover, as senior PK Nicholas Setta kicked his second field goal of the day, a 35-yard boot with 5:26 remaining in the third period.
Junior LCB Vontez Duff recovered a Florida State fumble at the Seminoles' two-yard line late in the third quarter. Notre Dame converted the turnover on the very next play, as sophomore TB Ryan Grant scored on a two-yard TD run.
On the kickoff following Grant's score, FSU fumbled and sophomore ILB Brandon Hoyte recovered at the Seminoles' 17-yard line. Three plays later, the Irish parlayed the turnover into points, as junior QB Carlyle Holiday threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior WR Omar Jenkins.
Notre Dame scored 17 points in a span of 2:21 late in the third quarter, with all three scores coming off Florida State turnovers. The Irish now have scored 95 points off 24 takeaways this season (11 TD, 11 PAT, 6 FG). Notre Dame also tied its season-high with four takeaways (vs. Purdue and Michigan, 2002).
The Notre Dame defense held Florida State to 93 yards rushing, the sixth time in eight games this season the Irish have held an opponent under 100 yards on the ground. The Seminoles came into the game ranked 15th in the nation in rushing (230.71) - the Irish now have held six of their eight opponents to less than half of their seasonal rushing averages.
Sophomore TB Ryan Grant scored a touchdown in his sixth consecutive game with his two scoring runs today. The last Irish player to score touchdowns in six straight games was Autry Denson, who had TDs in the first 10 games of the 1998 season.
Junior QB Carlyle Holiday set a new career high by throwing two touchdown passes this afternoon.
Senior P Joey Hildbold dropped three of his five punts inside the Florida State 10-yard line. For the season, Hildbold has put 22 of his 49 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
For the second consecutive week, and the fourth time in the last two seasons, Notre Dame helped set a new stadium attendance record at an opponents' facility (84,106 today at Doak Campbell Stadium). Last week, a Falcon Stadium-record crowd of 56,409 (nearly 4,000 more than its listed capacity) watched the Irish defeat No. 18 Air Force. In 2001, both Nebraska and Texas A&M set stadium attendance records in their games with Notre Dame, with the latter game also establishing a Big XII Conference and state of Texas record.