- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Jarrell wouldn't have scored without the block he got from All-America left tackle Aaron Taylor, who had sprinted 30 yards for the privilege of clearing a path to the end zone. "He's supposed to fall down on the other side of the field," said Irish right tackle Todd Norman, "but he comes all the way across and makes my block. He was moving pretty good for a man of his obesity."
It is a favorite pastime of offensive linemen across the country to tell one another how fat they are. In fact, Taylor, who is 6'4", 299 pounds, runs a five-flat 40. His body actually has definition.
When fullback Jerome Bettis and tailback Reggie Brooks left for the NFL after last season, you might have expected Notre Dame's ground game to suffer. It did not. This is less of a mystery when you look at who stayed. Norman and center Tim Ruddy are strong pro prospects. Taylor is a sure first-round draft pick. The Irish derive their personality from the offensive line. "That's really the core of the team, right there," says left guard Mark Zataveski of Taylor, Norman and Ruddy. "You can run anything behind those three guys."
Against Florida State the Irish did just that. Junior tailback Lee Becton, who scored Notre Dame's second touchdown early in the second quarter on a 26-yard burst off tackle, turned in his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game, gaining 122 yards—more than all Seminole runners combined—on 26 carries. "When you've got somebody who opens a five-foot hole for you," said Becton, "it just makes things easier." Indeed, on all four Notre Dame TDs the runner was upright when he scored.
Even so, Florida State's defenders had their opportunities. "If we missed 100 tackles," said defensive end Derrick Alexander, "I would not be surprised." Bowden agreed. Asked what he would have done differently, the coach said, "Tackling. But that's nothing I can do. That's something our kids have to do."
Which is not to say that Bowden and his assistants didn't share much of the culpability. They were largely responsible for Florida State's horrific second quarter. when the Seminoles seemed to stand by helplessly as the game almost got out of hand. By halftime the score was 21-7. Twenty of the 25 plays the Seminoles called between their first touchdown and intermission were passes, including a disastrous double lateral between Ward and Knox that lost 14 yards to the Seminole six. On the next play Ward was intercepted by strong safety John Covington.
Despite an embarrassment of riches at tailback, with Sean Jackson and Dunn, and a future NFL fullback in William Floyd, the Seminoles were hesitant to run. Why? "I didn't think it was to our best advantage," said offensive coordinator Brad Scott, who calls most of the plays. As the Seminoles fell further and further behind, he said, "it became a little more obvious what we had to do—get the ball downfield. We got behind, so we could hardly waste our time running."
Instead they wasted it passing. More than 32 minutes elapsed between Florida State's first and second touchdowns. "I didn't think we ran enough," said McCorvey. He found an unlikely ally in Holtz, who said, "I did think they'd try to run the ball more."
As the game wore on, the Irish got tired and Ward got hot, and the final four minutes got very interesting. First, with Notre Dame leading 31-17, Ward marched the team 45 yards in 99 seconds. His fourth-down, 20-yard scoring pass to McCorvey was tipped by safety Brian Magee before dropping gently into McCorvey's hands. That score—call it the gift of the Magee—trimmed Notre Dame's lead to seven points. After holding Notre Dame without a first down and partially blocking the ensuing punt, the Seminoles got the ball back on their own 37 with 51 seconds to play. But, because of earlier carelessness, they had no timeouts left. Ward took the team 49 yards before Wooden snuffed out the Seminoles' hopes.
Those two gutsy late drives did accomplish two things for Florida State: They assured Ward the Heisman Trophy, and they prevented the Seminoles from falling further than No. 2 in the bowl-coalition poll. But the drives could not save Bowden from sharp criticism of his game plan. "I'm sure some will say the 'big one' got away," he said. "After six years I finally found out what the big one is—it's the one you lose. The Miami game this year wasn't a big one. This was a big one."