Despite the loss the coach allowed himself a little levity. "I'd like to be Lou Holtz tonight," said Bowden. "He'll have a good time."
Surely, Bobby, you jest. Asked about his plans for the evening, Bowden's counterpart in the bifocals and the Prince Valiant haircut said he would "go home, watch a game on ESPN, look at this game, and start thinking about [this week's date with] Boston College. I'll say hello to my wife, and hope Eleanor, my 74-year-old mother-in-law, will talk to me." Since taking his mother-in-law white-water rafting over the summer, says Holtz, his relations with her have been strained.
Tell us, Lou, how does this victory stack up against your other boffo wins? Is it the biggest? "It was the most recent," he said. As if to apologize for his lack of jubilation, Holtz said, "This is my job. I don't show great emotions or elations."
His lack of elations notwithstanding, Holtz has succeeded, with each win, in putting more distance between himself and the furor raised by Under the Tarnished Dome, an unflattering portrayal of Holtz and Notre Dame football that came out in September. The book has been effectively shelved by two numbers: 10 and zero. The book alleged, among other things, that Holtz once spit in a player's face. Irish senior quarterback Kevin McDougal has a theory about that. He figures the spitting was accidental. Says McDougal, "He has that lisp—he's always spitting."
McDougal is qualified to make such an observation. He cheerfully figures that this season Holtz has yelled at him more than at any other player. On Tuesday of last week Holtz threw McDougal out of practice for making a bad read on a pass play. He allowed McDougal back after a brief exile. This is one of Holtz's pet methods of getting his players to focus.
McDougal is resilient. For three seasons he worked his way up the depth chart. This year, when at last it appeared to be his turn to start, he was beaten out in the preseason by Ron Powlus, the prodigiously talented freshman from Berwick, Pa. Before the final scrimmage Holtz took McDougal aside to deliver the unhappy news: He was going with Powlus.
The freshman broke his right clavicle that afternoon, and McDougal has led the Irish to the brink of a national title. McDougal's response to Holtz's bad news back in August—"I understand why you feel that way, Coach, but I think I can lead this team to a national championship"—was so sportsmanlike that it seems destined to take its place alongside other quotations in Notre Dame lore: Someday, Rock, when the team is up against it, and the breaks are heating the boys....
The Irish didn't catch any breaks Sunday when the Seminoles dropped to only No. 2 in the coalition standings. For McDougal's response to Holtz to be proved prophetic, the quarterback probably will have to lead his team to one of the toughest doubles in football: two for two against FSU. Before their sweat had dried on Saturday, many of the Seminoles were talking rematch. Said Floyd, the fullback, "We're hoping this was just Round 1."