I couldn't help be genuinely moved by what the Syracuse players said after the game: expressing their excitement coming into the game, how special it was to play at Notre Dame, how much pride they had in their fired head coach, Greg Robinson, and how incredible this win really was.
#97 Arthur Jones – Jr. -- DTThis was a team that was 2-8. They've played some pitiful football this year, and ranked towards the bottom of nearly every statistical category you could imagine. It was almost the end of the season. And their coach was already a dead man walking. There was absolutely no reason for these guys to care anymore. It was over.
On playing at Notre Dame…“I had a great time … I was just laughing, I told them [Notre Dame] to block me, you know what I mean? I made it in my personal interest to go out there and give it my all. It [the end of the game] felt great, I remember being here in 2005 with coach Robinson and he promised us then we were going to get after them [Notre Dame] and it was really emotional, and I remember him saying that as a freshman, its amazing.”
#75 Ryan Durand – Sr. – OG
On playing after Coach Robinson was fired… “It never really crossed our minds when we were preparing for Notre Dame. We looked at this game as our bowl game for our seniors, and for our younger guys this is just a really special place to play, and we accomplished our goal.”
On the impact of the win against Notre Dame… “It puts a good taste in your mouth for the entire season. We had a lot of disappointments over the season. We had a lot of ups and we had a lot of downs. It really makes us feel good about the entire season. It’s a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.”
On wanting to win for Coach Robinson…“We did it for the whole team, coaches included. That includes Coach Robinson, he is our head coach until next week. We always go out and play for ourselves, we play for the coaches, we play for the team, and it doesn’t change at all.”
On the game winning touchdown drive…“We were going to win the game. That’s what we kept saying to each other [in the huddle]. We put that ball in the end zone and we won.”
#29 Antwon Bailey – Fr. – RB
On his attitude coming into this game…“I felt different about this game, honestly. All the players will tell you, we were talking at the beginning and I told them, ‘I feel something.’ I don’t know, maybe it was the atmosphere.”
On the final drive…“For me it felt like a dream. I was looking up at that clock at the beginning of that drive, and there was five minutes left. It was crazy. Everyone in that huddle was just confident. Honestly, I didn’t even see him catch the touchdown because I was blocking, so I see all my teammates running to the touchdown and I started jumping up and down because I knew we scored.”
#60 Jim McKenzie- So. - C
On the emotions at the end of the game…“It was really one of the best wins that I’ve ever experienced. And this is a great thing because our record does not show the way we play and I’m glad we could show on a national stage the way we play. This is a great Notre Dame team, too, and at their house, it’s a real tough challenge so I just take pride in my teammates and the way we did.”
On Coach Robinson…“Greg Robinson has been through a lot with Syracuse, but we know that he’s been working hard and things haven’t gone the way we needed them to for him and we just wanted to play for him and show the nation that we can play. And I wish the best for him wherever he goes and we have one more game with him and we’re going to try to go out on top.”
On what Coach said to them during and after the game… “He said that we have to dare to be special, that we had to be special in order to win this game. And we played that way and it was something that really came through for us.”
#4 Cameron Dantley – Sr. - QB
On what it was is like to play at his dad’s alma mater… “It was definitely great. I’m sure I’m going to get calls from him. We’re playing in Notre Dame stadium first of all, just with all the legacy and history that’s going on here, and on top of that to play somewhere my dad had such a great career and everyone likes him a lot here, so to be out on this type of stage on national television was just a dream come true for me. And it just so happened that he played for Notre Dame, too, so that makes it all the better.”
On Coach Robinson…“We were rallying around him all the time. We always had confidence in coach and he always had confidence in us so we just felt like we should do this for not only our football team but for him as well. To send him off on a positive note would be great for him and great for our football team. So just to see him keep on working like he always works us here, and we were able to come out with a victory in the end, which is great for us.”
On what he was thinking when he threw the winning pass… “It was about me putting it on the money, and we just did everything to perfection here, and we had great time back there, and it was just about me putting it on him. It was a great play, and it was just a matter that we had enough time and time did stand still just to make sure that he did catch the ball but he caught it in the endzone and made that drive which was great for us.”
And yet, somehow, they rallied. They strapped it on, they got excited, they took their lame duck coach and put him on their shoulders and they went out there and played with more passion and intensity than they had all year long. And they won the goddam ball game.
There's a lesson here for the Irish. For Charlie and his team to pull themselves out of the fire, they're going to have to take a cue from Syracuse. They're going to have to go into a daunting arena, and find a way to beat a much more talented team. Everyone had chalked up the Southern Cal game as an "acceptable loss" back in August; now, it's a must-win.
Reading those quotes again from the Syracuse players, it's pretty clear: it only comes by passion. With nothing on the line other than personal pride (and perhaps a coach's job), will we care enough to compete?