Notre Dame's Corey Robinson: We were one play away

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – And the real clincher…

That infamous contact, by whoever, wasn’t even necessary.

Watch the replay of the critical play that ruined the Notre Dame football team’s perfect season.

Fourth-and-goal on Florida State’s 2-yard line. Seminoles led, 31-27, 17 seconds left in the game. As the play developed, Irish receivers Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise ran straight toward FSU defenders. Corey Robinson ran toward the sideline. The Seminole assigned to defend Robinson was forced to go wide, in the end zone, before he could get to Robinson. He was nowhere near Robinson when he caught the ball from Everett Golson and trotted into the end zone with what appeared to be a game-winner.

Meanwhile, Fuller and Prosise made contact beyond the line of scrimmage with their defenders. Flag for offensive pass interference came out. Official on the field indicated Fuller was the culprit. Official scorer tagged Prosise. Both were guilty.

Doesn’t matter.

Hard to argue with the call. The letter of the law was violated.

“We were one play away,” Robinson said. “When you score like that, with time expiring, and you thought you won like that – that’s heartbreaking.

“I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t see the pass interference. I thought we got it.”

Tough as it has been to accept, the Irish walked away from Doak S. Campbell Stadium Saturday night closer to cracking into college football’s elite than they were in January, 2013, when they limped away from South Beach after being ransacked by Alabama.

Now, they actually have an offense that can compete with anyone in the country.

That’s gotta count for something.

One of the come-of-age efforts Saturday night was made by Robinson. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore receiver has been working at finding his role within the Notre Dame offense this season. While playing second fiddle to Fuller earlier, this was his prime-time stage to shine. He caught eight passes for 99 yards and touchdowns of one and nine yards.

His first touchdown was a play similar to the controversial one. No flags were thrown.

The difference, according to the rules, is that the first pass was thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. If that’s the case, receivers can make contact. If the pass is beyond the line of scrimmage, the contact’s illegal.

Beyond the play that drew national attention and angst throughout ND Nation, the TDs will be the catches that people remember. But the play in which Robinson really made a difference was as big-time as they get.

Fourth-and-18 on the Notre Dame 43. Irish trailed by four with 1:10 left in the game. Golson scrambled right and appeared to be in trouble. He had more than a series on the line. A game was in the balance.

Maybe a season.

Robinson rolled with Golson. Got his bearings: Where’s the sideline? Where’s the first-down marker? He made the catch for a 20-yard game before going out of bounds. The Irish lived to see another day.

“They’re a really good defense, but we’ve faced great defenses, as well, in the past,” Robinson said. “I thought this was just another game. I gave them the same respect we give every team. They just out-played us today.”

Notre Dame refused to let that annoyingly deafening “War Chant,” a guy on a horse with a flaming spear, and everything else that goes into the Florida State football experience become a factor.

“We came with the mindset: We’re not going to back down because they’re Florida State, defending national champion,” Robinson said. “We’re going to go out there and attack them. We had some success.

“We came in here 100 percent confident we were going to beat them today. We were going to shock the world. It was us against the world. Unfortunately, we didn’t pull it out.”

That may not have completely been the case.

The bunker mentality may have been a coaching ploy to rally the troops. But beyond the city limits of Tallahassee, the rest of the college football world may be tiring of the Seminoles’ act. Last year’s run to the national championship was a novelty: Fresh blood other than the SEC winning the title, and a youngster in FSU quarterback Jameis Winston winning the Heisman Trophy.

It hasn’t taken long for Winston’s act to wear thin in the public eye, and Florida State’s gimme schedule the remainder of the season lacks as much credibility as it does losses.

Even fans who regularly cheer against Notre Dame wouldn’t have minded an Irish victory Saturday night.

“The next few days will be rough,” Robinson said. “We’re going to take this bullet, assess the film and see what we’ve got to do to get better.

“We did a lot of good things out here, even though we lost. That’s the good thing about this team; that we can still get better. We lost to Florida State in the last few seconds, and we can still get better.”

This season still has plenty at stake.

Corey Robinson caught two touchdown passes against Florida State, but a third that was negated by a penalty is the one fans are talking about. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)