Oct. 16, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It slowly builds into a thumping crescendo, and then the notes seemingly turn into body punch after body punch, jabbing at an opponent's psyche.
This week sound waves of Florida State's fabled war chant cascaded down on the University of Notre Dame football practice field and across campus as the No. 5-ranked Fighting Irish (6-0) prepared for their game against the No. 2 Seminoles (6-0).
Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State's home field, will be rocking to the war chant on Saturday night when a new chapter in the rivalry between the Irish and the defending national champion Seminoles is written.
Notre Dame's job is to make sure the Irish lock into the game and deal with the challenge poised by 82,300 garnet-and-gold noisy fans.
Even with a volume that rivals that of a jet engine at full roar to help the Irish acclimate to the expected noise level Saturday, Irish cornerback Cody Riggs is the only player who has already felt the noise.
"I played there twice, so I know what it's like," said Riggs, who faced the Seminole fans when he played for Florida before transferring to Notre Dame.
"Everybody's been asking me, 'Do they play that chant all the time? Is it really that loud there during the game?' Yes. It's one of the great stadiums in college football, but so is Notre Dame. That crowd is always into it. They have a lot of tradition there, they're coming off of a national championship season. It's going to be a packed house, and we'll just have to respond."
Riggs said his advice to younger players is just play the game.
"Things are going to happen," Riggs said. "You always have to keep your composure, especially on the road. You can't get overwhelmed by what's going on in the game. You're not going to be able to hear each other, so you have to stay calm and communicate with each other.
"I remember when I was at Florida, we went up by a few scores, and the crowd at Florida State was still into it. It's hard to take a crowd like that out of the game. We can't think about the crowd. You have to think about the game. If you think about the crowd, that's something that's outside of the game. You can only think about the things you can control."
Riggs said home teams can gain momentum fast if the crowd gets into the game. The visiting team defense has to stay calm and deal with the ebb and tide of the game.
"We're not thinking about the crowd during the game," Riggs said. "We're trying to get to situations where we do what we do best on defense. We want to get them into third and long, make them uncomfortable.
"With a team like Florida State, the crowd is going to be into it, no matter what. It's a loud crowd. They know things about you that you'll be surprised they know. They sit right behind your bench. I appreciate the tradition they have and how much people there care about football."
Notre Dame will be playing its first true road game of the season. The Irish so far have played away from Notre Dame Stadium twice, against Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Saturday's game at Florida State will also be Notre Dame's first game on natural grass this season.
But job one for the Irish will be to keep the noise from being a thorny issue.
-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent