Ron "Lucky" Lunford might be from Jacksonville but he still enjoys hearing of the legend surrounding Notre Dame. "> Ron "Lucky" Lunford might be from Jacksonville but he still enjoys hearing of the legend surrounding Notre Dame. ">

No Luck Involved

Notre Dame Stadium, even with recent expansion, still stands as the "house that Rockne built." Irish players still tap the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign as they enter the tunnel. Of course, when players look towards the north goal post, "Touchdown Jesus" appears to be signaling a score. Florida State offensive lineman <b>Ron "Lucky" Lunford</b> might be from Jacksonville but he still enjoys hearing of the legend surrounding Notre Dame.

"I am a football player first but I am also a big college football fan," Lunford told TheTerritory.

"I've always followed Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan, so I am really excited about going up there. In fact, I've never been to Indiana period, so I am looking forward to the trip.

"Of course, we are going up there to get a win."

The fifth-ranked Seminoles (7-1) return to South Bend, Ind., for the first time in 10 years Saturday against the struggling Irish (2-5). FSU will fly into South Bend this afternoon and stay in nearby Michigan City.

The Seminoles have spent all week speaking in glowing terms about Notre Dame's tradition.

"I grew up watching football," said cornerback Bryant McFadden, from Hollywood, Fla.

"When I was young, Notre Dame was a fascinating program. At that time they were winning and I didn't have any choice but to watch them. I enjoyed watching them playing in the stadium. They have their own channel, NBC. The only college football program with that affect -- that's amazing. I am excited about getting the chance to going up there."

If all goes well, the Seminoles, tabbed an 11-point favorite, should return home with a victory. FSU coach Bobby Bowden, however, remains wary of the struggling Irish, point to their emotion and, of course, tradition. Notre Dame is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak at home in 19 seasons. The last time was under Gerry Faust. Saturday is Nov. 1, which is also designated as All Saints Day in the Catholic church calendar. Well, Notre Dame has never lost a football game on All Saints Day in its 113-year history.

"Oh really? Isn't that something," a chuckling Bowden said. "Are you saying us Baptists are going to get taken... us Southern Baptists have no chance? They're going to have that emotion."

Notre Dame's struggles have been easy to pinpoint.

Last year, the Irish didn't allow more than 24 points in a game until the regular-season finale against Southern California. This season, it has given up 24 or more points four times in seven games, including 38 against Michigan and 45 against USC.

Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been a menace for opposing quarterbacks this season, ranking among the national leaders with 1.0 sacks per game, with six of his seven sacks coming in the last four games.

He had a career-high 10 tackles, a career-best 3.5 sacks (part of an eight-sack night by the Irish) and a forced fumble in Notre Dame's 20-14 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers. For the season, Tuck leads the Irish in sacks (seven), tackles for loss (nine) and forced fumbles (two), and he is fourth on the team with 38 tackles.

Linebacker Courtney Watson, a Sarasota native who grew up a Seminole fan, has a team-high 69 tackles (11.5 per game) and is a Butkus semifinalist.

The return game also has been a source of strength for Notre Dame over the past five seasons. The Irish have logged 24 returns (punts, kickoffs, fumbles, interceptions) for touchdown in that span, a figure that ranks ninth nationally.

"We have to go up there and try to execute," Bowden said following Thursday's practice.

"Just like I told the kids before the Miami game, turnovers and kicking game. Turnovers and kicking game. That's usually what happens in games like this."

McFadden agrees.

"We are expecting a physical game and the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will be in good position. They are basically the same guys we saw last year, so we are going to have to be ready for them."

Nole Digest Top Stories