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Football Insider: No Ex-‘Cuse

Jared Jedick | Monday, November 24, 2008

Where do we go from here?

Notre Dame fell to Syracuse Saturday afternoon 24-23, losing to an eight-loss team for the first time ever – on senior day, no less.

“I feel absolutely miserable for the seniors,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “I feel sick to my stomach.”

The Irish dropped their fourth game in the past six contests to drop their season record to 6-5. The Irish were 19 1/2 point favorites and led 23-10 in the fourth quarter.

“Every loss hurts,” senior linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. said. “But there’s something added to it, being the total situation.”

The victory was huge for the Orange (3-8), who were playing for their head coach Greg Robinson, who was told earlier in the week that he had been fired, effective at the end of the season.

“It’s a great day for our football team. Truly a great day for our program to come into South Bend and to pull it off,” Robinson said. “It really isn’t necessarily a surprise at all to our football team. They knew that somewhere along the line this team was going to do something special. This was an opportunity that they knew they had to make the most of.”

The Irish offense was unable to capitalize on good field position and the defense was unable to stop the Syracuse offense in the fourth quarter, during which the Orange outscored Notre Dame 10-0.

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen completed 22 of his 39 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, but he could not lead his team to the end zone when the opportunity arose to put the Orange away.

“I don’t really know why that happened,” Clausen said.

The Irish had the ball within Syracuse’s 30-yard line three times during the third quarter and only came away with three total points in those series. The first of those drives included a panoply of errors, including two holding penalties and a 17-yard sack of Jimmy Clausen, resulting in a second-and-37.

“That’s where we didn’t put it away,” Weis said. “If we put them away right there, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Conspicuously absent was an effective rushing game, especially against one of football’s worst rushing defenses, as the leading rusher for the Irish was Armando Allen with 52 net yards.

Despite the inability to convert in Syracuse’s side of the field, the Irish were able to build a 23-10 fourth quarter lead and put themselves in a position to win.

The first quarter started off with a good special teams play by senior special teamer Mike Anello who forced Syracuse’s punt returner Ryan Howard to fumble the ball on his own 23-yard line. The Irish went three and out but converted on a 34 yard Brandon Walker field goal to put the Irish ahead.

The Orange answered back a couple drives later with a field goal of their own from 48 yards to even up the score.

The situation started to begin to look dicey when Syracuse drove 81 yards down the field to score on their very next possession.

The Irish responded with a field goal and a touchdown to end the half, including a 35 yard strike from Clausen to wide receiver Golden Tate, and seemed to have all the momentum going into halftime with a 13-10 lead.

Tate had an impressive game with 146 receiving yards and two touchdowns. This was the first game in Tate’s career with two touchdown passes.

The third quarter saw the Orange begging the Irish with their errors to put the football game out of reach, but the Irish just could not do it.

Syracuse began the third quarter with two muffed punts and a fumble that put the Irish in excellent field position, but Notre Dame struggled with penalties and poor offense that put saw them only score three points on those three drives.

The Irish did score another touchdown on the only drive of the quarter that they started on their own side of the field. Tate again caught a deep 36 yard strike from Clausen to give the Irish a substantial 20-10 lead. The added field goal saw the Irish have a 13 point lead going into the third quarter.

These would be the last points the Irish would score in the game, as Syracuse quarterback, and son of Notre Basketball great Adrian Dantley, Cameron Dantley would lead his team on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter for the win.

Dantley went 13-of-25 passing for 126 yards and the gaming winning 11-yard touchdown pass to Donte Davis with 42 seconds left to put the Orange on top 24-23.

The Irish got the ball back with 42 seconds left in the game, and a series of incompletions and a 40 yard prayer to Tate put Notre Dame on the Syracuse 34 yard line with five seconds to go.

The Irish lined up for the 53 yard field goal, but Walker’s accurate boot fell just yards short of the goalposts.

The concern after the devastating loss is how the Irish will respond next week against USC. The Irish are in serious danger of falling to .500 for the year and looking at the bottom of the barrel for potential bowl games.

“You can roll around and sit there and feel sorry for yourself, and if you do that you can go to LA and they will humiliate you,” Weis said. “We’ll see how the team looks on Monday.”

The Irish will have to get their psyche in the right place and change the attitude of the team if they want to put up a fight against Southern California.

“We have to have short-term memory and come in ready for USC,” Tate said. “We can’t mope around and go into depression. We have to go in Monday ready to work, and we have to work harder this week.”