It’ll be hot and the crowd will be raucous on Sunday when Notre Dame plays at Doak Campbell Stadium against Florida State in the season opener.
Perhaps particularly raucous.
Not only is it a home opener against the Seminoles, it’s the first FSU game since Nov. 16, 2019 that is fully open to the public. All the 2020 games had crowd restriction limits because of Covid 19.
Florida State head coach Mike Norvell is selling this an opportunity for his team to show that it can compete with a top 10 program. Notre Dame beat FSU 42-26 last year in South Bend. It was an outcome with a score that was closer than expected, with Notre Dame being a playoff team and the Seminoles going 3-6 last season.
“There is a lot of excitement around our football program,” Norvell said. “We have some new faces. For some guys, this is their first experience at Doak Campbell Stadium. It’s going to be the first experience for a majority of our guys to play at a sold out, packed Doak Campbell Stadium. That’s something we are excited about. It’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere and a tremendous showcase for our program. It’s going to give a first impression of what the 2021 football identity for Florida State is.”
Norvell said the key for his young team is to embrace the big game setting but to compete with poise. FSU lists 14 redshirt freshman and sophomores on its depth chart as starters.
“It’s about controlling what’s in front of us,” Norvell said. “There is going to be a lot of emotion. That’s something we want. We want them to be emotional. I want them to have passion. I want them to have energy. Everyone can have a great plan going into it but there is going to be moments Sunday night where you might get knocked down but you got to be able to get up and stay focused. You have to make sure that each play that you don't let the atmosphere and the environment distract you from what your job is. You have to make sure you're playing with great technique and great fundamentals and that you'll be able to respond to the good and be able to respond to the bad.
"That's where the consistency has to show up for our team," continued Norvell. "We are an emotional group. That can be a really good thing, but at times it can also hinder you for what you're trying to accomplish. All camp we talked about why do you put some guys in different situations? Because I want them to be able to be calm and responsible, especially when they cannot control what's going on around them. On Sunday night, we need a great crowd. We need a great atmosphere. And for our guys, it’s about just the play that is in front of them.”
One player who could add to the drama is transfer quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton, who hasn’t played a game since 2018 after a horrific knee injury at the University of Central Florida, is listed on the depth chart as the co-No. 1 starter along with Jordan Travis. Norvell said he “may or not” be the starting quarterback but “he’ll make this team better.”
“He’s really excited about game week,” Norvell said of Milton. “It’s just fun seeing him with the opportunity that is in front of him. It’s going to be a special moment for him because of all the work that has gone into getting back.”
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