Notre Dame’s recent association with the ACC has provided an enhanced level of excitement and competitiveness to the football schedule. None more deserving of these designations than the 2014 contest against Florida State providing a top five match up in one of college football’s most historic venues. This one delivered big time and will be remembered for ages.
This was a game that will not be remembered for the breakout performance of WR Corey Robinson, or the 120 yard excursion from Tarean Folston, but for the controversial penalty that ultimately cost Notre Dame the victory. But we’ll get to that later.
The #5 Fighting Irish faced off against now NFL starting QB, Jameis Winston and the #2 Florida State Seminoles on October 18th 2014. ESPN’s College Gameday came to Tallahassee to cover the game which, at the time, held heavy national championship implications for both teams. It was the game of the week, in prime time, on ABC.
This was a huge game against two undefeated teams. Florida State was a favorite to go all the way, but Notre Dame was surpassing expectations halfway through the season, yet still had something to prove. They needed a defining victory against a top tier opponent to stamp on their resume. A win against the nation’s best would certainly accomplish that.
Both teams held their own on defense to start out, but Notre Dame drew first blood with a touchdown pass from Golson to Robinson late in the first quarter. FSU quickly answered to tie it up at the end of the first. The Irish defense performed well throughout the first half, led by Linebacker, Joe Schmidt and carried a 17-10 lead into halftime. Notre Dame was exactly where they wanted to be.
The third quarter was very back and forth. Solid offensive production from both teams, resulting in a 24-24 lock heading into the final quarter of play. Florida State had gained the edge, going up by four going into the final minutes. Notre Dame drove down the field completing some miraculous plays to end up inside the Florida State five-yard line with a chance to win the game with just seconds remaining….
It was pick, or ‘rub’ play that was flagged, negating what would have been the game winning touchdown and cap to a monumental victory for Notre Dame. Brian Kelly of course, defended the play, stating that Notre Dame doesn’t coach illegal plays and that his receiver was simply running his route when the defender pressed up on him immediately. It was later reported that FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, earlier in the game, had communicated to the referees to watch for this specific play from the Irish offense. His complaint paid off.
Interestingly, the play that won Clemson the 2017 National Championship was essentially the same offensive pattern. The result: No call, and a Clemson championship victory.
All things considered, this game ended like far too many others for Notre Dame. Falling short in a big game with just enough controversy to make it sting that much more. On the other hand, this was a hard fought game in which Notre Dame showed the nation that they can compete at the highest level. However, the following week, this Irish team that went toe to toe with the best team in the nation looked like an entirely different set of players. They went on to lose five of their last six, ending the season with a victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl to culminate the disappointing season. Notre Dame finished the 2014 season 8-5.