The season-opening matchup at Florida State forced Notre Dame fans to consider how much their nerves could take. In a game that saw huge momentum shifts and several lead changes, the Irish secured the victory with a 41-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer in overtime to cap a thrilling 41-38 road win to start the season.
It was the first game of the season for the ninth-ranked Irish and the unranked Seminoles, electrifying the atmosphere at Doak Campbell Stadium. It was also the first game since the passing of legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, his legacy fresh on the minds of the Seminole faithful.
However, Irish quarterback Jack Coan quickly dampened the Seminoles’ energy by leading Notre Dame on a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a 41-yard pass to Michael Mayer on the opening drive of the game. Florida State responded with a strong start of their own: first with an 89-yard touchdown run by RB Jashaun Corbyn, then with a 45-yard touchdown drive, giving the Seminoles a 14-7 lead.
But, soon after, the Irish managed to halt the Seminole momentum with a 48-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer. Then, following Kyle Hamilton’s first interception of the game, Jack Coan led the Irish on a 48-yard drive sealed by a 23-yard scoring pass to Joe Wilkins Jr. The half ended with Notre Dame leading 17-14.
Florida State opened the second half with a 60-yard touchdown pass, but a botched snap prevented the point-after, giving FSU a 20-17 lead. Notre Dame answered quickly with a 75-yard, four-play drive ending with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Coan to Kevin Austin Jr. Two plays later, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton secured his second interception of the game after sprinting nearly from sideline to sideline to give the ball back to the Irish offense. Notre Dame capitalized with a 69-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 55-yard screen pass from Coan to Kyren Williams, finishing with a six-yard pass between the same duo for the touchdown.
On the next Seminole drive, the Irish defense forced another turnover, this time Clarence Lewis picking off Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis. The Irish offense took advantage again with a three-play 32-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Chris Tyree, putting the Irish up 38-20 with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
The Irish celebration was short-lived. Florida State began their comeback with a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The Seminoles tacked on a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 10. Following an Irish punt, the Seminoles engineered another long, 12-play touchdown drive, further cutting the deficit to 3. After another Irish punt, Florida State drove 46 yards, culminating with a game-tying 43-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald with 40 seconds remaining in regulation. Notre Dame failed to score in the waning seconds of regulation, and the game proceeded to overtime.
In overtime, Florida State got the ball first, adding to the drama. On third down, replacement quarterback McKenzie Milton appeared to fumble. The ball was recovered by Florida State, but it resulted in a 13-yard loss. As a result, Florida State lined up to attempt a 50-yard field goal. Just before the ball was snapped, Florida State’s head coach Mike Norvell called a timeout to challenge the ruling of a fumble.
Although the referees granted the timeout, Seminole kicker Fitzgerald still attempted the kick; which, had the play not been whistled dead, would have been good. Upon video review, the ruling of a fumble was overturned, resulting in a shorter field goal attempt of 37 yards. In a twist of fate, Fitzgerald missed the shorter kick, leaving the game tied at 38 and giving Notre Dame the chance to win with a field goal on its ensuing possession.
The Irish could not move the ball much in three plays, so Jonathan Doerer strode onto the field. Irish and Seminole fans alike held their breath as Doerer’s 41-yard kick sailed through the air, and eventually, through the uprights. The Irish won the game 41-38.
“I’m in favor of execution, maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight,” head coach Brian Kelly joked after the game. Irish fans were just happy to get out with a win and their nerves intact.