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Instead, Holtz turned in the coaching performance of his career, and the Irish. now 10-0, continued their unlikely march toward the national title. Against the Seminoles, Holtz took chances, but he chose his moments well. He blitzed sparingly but effectively. He used misdirection to exploit Florida State's overpursuit. He conscripted Adrian Jarrell—a senior punter-flanker who had carried the ball exactly three times in his college career—to run a reverse pitch that scored Notre Dame's first touchdown. He used Jeff Burris, an All-America candidate at safely, in two red-zone runs that produced Notre Dame's last two touchdowns. That's right: A punter and a safety scored three of the Irish's four touchdowns.
Equally important, by abandoning his customary midweek gloom, Holtz had sent the message to his players that they belonged on the same field with the heavily favored Seminoles. "Late last week on TV, I saw a special on Dwight Eisenhower," said Holtz after the game. "The one thing Dwight said was, 'If you do not have a positive attitude as the commander, victory is impossible.' "
Still, Holtz could not resist a little sandbagging. All week he and defensive coordinator Rick Minter had moaned that the Seminoles would exploit Notre Dame's lack of speed at inside linebacker. "Play-action passes won't work against us," said Holtz. "Our linebackers are too slow to get out of position." Said Minter, "Our kids play hard, and we love 'em to death, but we could get overmatched."
Overmatched is what the Irish appeared to be when the Seminoles scored with ease on their first possession, a 10-play, 89-yard clinic conducted by Ward. As Knox knelt briefly in the end zone following his 12-yard scoring reception, a hush fell over the stadium. The Irish hadn't played since Oct. 30, when they beat Navy 58-27. With two weeks to prepare, Holtz was supposed to be the equivalent of the Creator with an eighth day, but where was his storied acumen now?
The Golden Domers needed only to "Be patient," which happens to be one of the '93 team's many mottoes. They may not have a player in the Top 10 of any NCAA offensive category, but these Irish lead the nation in slogans. The players are forever prefacing remarks by saying, "At Notre Dame, we have a philosophy..." and "One of our mottoes is...." A sampler: "Count on me." "Always expect a miracle." "What they do doesn't matter."
"Don't flinch" seemed to be the motto on Saturday, and Notre Dame didn't. After that first touchdown Florida State didn't score again until 4:45 remained in the third quarter. Minter, who slept in his office several nights last week, conceived a scheme that called for three and four linemen to pressure Ward, usually without blitzes or stunts. That way Notre Dame's linebackers and secondary could sit back and look for the pass.
The strategy worked. Ward lost his rhythm. Under constant harassment from tackles Bryant Young and Jim Flanigan, he forced passes into coverage. In the second quarter he suffered his first interception in 159 pass attempts, and during the game he threw at least four other balls that should have been picked off.
"Those defensive backs they got back there," said Bowden, "whenever they finish, and I hope it's soon, they'll be NFL." After noting his team's two turnovers, Bowden asked, with irritation, "Did they have any?"
No. Notre Dame has not turned the ball over in four games. The Irish know that they lack just enough talent to be unable to afford errors. On Saturday they yielded no big plays. Seminole wideout Kez McCorvey had 11 catches but none for more than 20 yards. When Ward scrambled he was often greeted by Pete Bercich or Justin Goheen—those poor, plodding Notre Dame linebackers who made 13 tackles between them.
The linebackers, however, had nothing on the offensive linemen. The Irish won because those linemen kicked the tails of their defensive counterparts, whom they outweighed by an average of 39 pounds. Notre Dame answered the Seminoles' touchdown by going 80 yards in seven plays on the ensuing series. Seventy of those yards came on the ground, the final 32 on that flanker-reverse by Jarrell, which nearly faked the Seminole linebackers out of their stylish gold pants.