Notre Dame vs. Florida State put the best of college football on display Sunday night. The Seminoles honored legendary coach Bobby Bowden with a pregame ceremony. And with the No. 9 Fighting Irish in Tallahassee, fans filled Doak Campbell Stadium like it was the early 2000s. Former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton made his first appearance since his major leg injury and helped force overtime, as Florida State nearly knocked off the top-10 team.
The mix of storylines and pageantry made for a TV ratings bonanza. Per Nielsen Fast Nationals, the Notre Dame-Florida State game ranks as the second most-viewed Labor Day Sunday game on record. The data dates back to 1995, and the numbers do not include out-of-home viewership yet.
Florida State overcame an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime. The extra time led to the most eyeballs on the game, with 8.8 million viewers tuning in.
Sunday’s game was also up 29% from the 2019 Labor Day Sunday game, which featured Houston and Oklahoma. The average viewership of the Notre Dame-Florida State game was 7.1 million.
Notre Dame fights off late Florida State rally for overtime win
Notre Dame looked to be well on its way to winning the season opener against Florida State in the third quarter. Florida State head coach Mike Norvell decided to go for it on fourth down from his own 33-yard line in the third quarter, setting up a quick Notre Dame touchdown drive.
The Seminoles nearly came back and won the game in the fourth quarter, led by Milton, who forced overtime. FSU missed a field goal on the first possession of overtime — it was wide left — while the Irish’s Jonathan Doerer nailed a 41-yard game-winner to deliver Notre Dame a 41-38 victory.
Jack Coan’s first start at quarterback for Notre Dame was a record-setter Sunday night. He threw for 366 yards, the most in an initial start in school history. A transfer from Wisconsin, Coan was 26-of-35 and threw a career-high four touchdown passes and an interception. The Irish were expected to rely heavily on their rushing attack this season, but FSU — which was horrendous against the run last season, allowing 199.2 rushing yards per game — stifled Notre Dame on the ground. The Irish ran 35 times but for just 65 yards.
The Fighting Irish host Toledo in South Bend on Saturday, while Florida State welcomes Jacksonville State.