Florida State junior cornerback Leroy Smith would not be in the starting lineup were it not for an injury to Stanford Samuels. But no matter how he got the chance, he is making the most of it.
He not only set up a third-quarter interception with a jarring hit on Josh Schmidt that caused the ball to hang in the air, but picked one off in the fourth and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown _ the fifth longest in school history.
"I read three-step (drop) by the quarterback (Brady Quinn) and I just broke on the ball," he said of the interception. "I just thank God for putting me in the right spots at the right time. I'm just being blessed right now."
Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews sees it a bit differently.
"The thing we try to do is get our people listed as second-team to play like first-teamers," he said. "Leroy's learning how to do that. He's just got a knack for making big plays and certainly he made a big one tonight."
WELCOME BACK, PART I: FSU senior defensive tackle Jeff Womble, who missed the past two games with a partially torn triceps, benefited from Smith's big hit. His diving interception was his first and set up an FSU touchdown.
"I don't think my eyes could have got any wider," Womble said. "My whole thing was, "Just get to this ball before it hits the ground.' It popped so high, I knew I could get it. I actually think I could have stayed up and caught it, but I wanted to make sure I was going to be there, so I laid out for it."
WELCOME BACK, PART II: Samuels, who missed most of the Virginia game and all of the Wake Forest game with a neck injury, also played and had an interception that stopped a fourth-quarter Notre Dame drive.
RECORD BOOK: With his three touchdown passes, quarterback Chris Rix has 53 in his career, moving past Gary Huff (52) and into third on the school's all-time list. Danny Kanell is second (57) and Chris Weinke leads (79).
SO MUCH FOR OMENS: The Irish were 13-0-1 on All Saints' Day before losing this time around.
SPECIAL GUEST: Gov. Jeb Bush made the trip to South Bend for the game. Hmm. Wonder if the Hurricanes and Gators feel left out?
A HOMECOMING: FSU compliance director Bob Minnix graduated from Notre Dame (1972) and was a former Irish player. A tailback, Minnix led the team in rushing as a senior with 337 yards on 78 attempts.
HOT TICKET: The Notre Dame ticket office received 51,051 requests from alumni for the FSU game, fifth highest in school history. The Seminoles received about 6,000 tickets.
_ BRIAN LANDMAN