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Irish approached with a little awe

No matter how much he might want his players to respect the tradition that is Notre Dame football, you can be sure Florida State coach Bobby Bowden won't hand out kelly green baseball caps as he did a decade ago.

"I thought that would be a nice gesture toward them," Bowden said, laughing, of his attempted homage to the Fighting Irish before the teams' ballyhooed 1993 showdown at Notre Dame.

Instead, then-Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz seized upon that as a knock, a how-dare-they-don-our-colors, to fuel his players even more. The No. 2 Irish upset No. 1 FSU that November day 31-24.

Bowden brings the Seminoles back to hallowed Notre Dame Stadium this afternoon for the first time since that game, and though the Irish (2-5) are struggling, he has a keen appreciation of the past.

"The Notre Dame game of '93 was a game I could say nothing right (beforehand)," Bowden said. "I was trying to downplay the tradition of Notre Dame so my kids wouldn't be scared to death. It backfired. It didn't work. We learned, don't play around with their tradition. It's there."

Fearing the echoes, Coach?

Well...

Bowden, who grew up marveling at the success of the Fighting Irish, plans to educate his players about Notre Dame.

This time they will know it's Knute Rockne, not Rock Knutne as then FSU receiver Kez McCorvey mistakenly called the Irish coaching legend.

Although many of his current players are too young to remember the '93 game, Bowden can lean on a handful of players who have a connection to Notre Dame.

"I visited there when my sister (Kala) went to school there," senior linebacker Michael Boulware said. "I saw some of the facilities and I went to football camp there when Bob Davie was the coach.

"My dad was always talking about the Four Horsemen, so I know about the tradition."

"It's a sight to see up there," added offensive tackle Alex Barron, who had narrowed his college choices to FSU and Notre Dame, where his uncle, Luther Bradley, was an All-America defensive back in the 1970s.

He's seen the Golden Dome.

He's seen Touchdown Jesus.

Defensive tackle Travis Johnson was heavily recruited by the Irish _ he took an unofficial visit there as a high school sophomore _ and even received a golden helmet to wear as a prep player at Notre Dame in California.

"I've told the guys everything is beautiful there," Johnson said. "The locker room is kind of old, but it's the whole fact you're at Notre Dame. The mystique of Notre Dame is something that's just great, really."

And the Irish use it.

"I think that's something that if you can get that throughout every bit and piece and particle of your system, then it adds something to your program because there are not a lot of people that have the tradition and the history that you have at Notre Dame," second-year coach Tyrone Willingham said.

"That should work for you and that should be a sense of strength as you play your contest."

The Seminoles insist they won't be overwhelmed by tradition. They have a healthy respect for the past _ the recent past.

The Irish embarrassed them in Tallahassee a year ago.

"We know what's at stake this year," said offensive guard Matt Meinrod, a former East Lake High star.

"Last year's loss was huge. They came into our house and beat us pretty bad. We have to go up there and avenge that loss."

That would bring a tip of the cap from the Irish.

Green ones, even.

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