SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Syracuse couldn't pull off a big win in time to save coach Greg Robinson's job. The Orange did nothing to help Notre Dame's Charlie Weis in the area of job security, either.
Cameron Dantley, son of one of Notre Dame's basketball greats, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Donte Davis with 42 seconds left to lead Syracuse to a 24-23 victory Saturday against the stunned and disheartened Irish.
Fifth-year Irish senior linebacker Maurice Crum Jr., who spent a year playing under Tyrone Willingham, said it was the worst loss of his career.
"Every loss hurts, but there's something added to it, being the total situation," Crum said.
The Orange trailed 23-10 in the fourth quarter before rallying as Notre Dame struggled mightily on offense. The Irish (6-5) came away with just six points after starting four times inside the Syracuse 23-yard line, including three times in the third quarter when they settled for a field goal.
"I really don't know why that happened," said Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, who threw two TD passes.
The victory allowed Syracuse (3-8) to avoid a third 10-loss season in four years under Robinson, who was fired last week, effective 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."
Dantley, the son of former NBA star Adrian Dantley, was 13-of-25 passing for 126 yards.
"Cam really, I thought, hung tough the whole game. He never got really rattled at all," Robinson said.
For the Irish, losing to a 19½-point underdog ranks among the worst losses in school history and leaves Weis with a 28-20 record in four seasons. Weis's 58.3 winning percentage is the same that Bob Davie was fired with after five seasons and Willingham after three. Weis has seven years left after this season on a 10-year contract.
Weis, who appeared to get past all the talk about his job being in jeopardy a week earlier by hanging on for a 27-21 victory over Navy, now finds himself the target again. For the most part, Weis declined to talk about what the loss means for his future, saying he needed more time before commenting. But he said he is not worried.
"Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you look at it, that's just my makeup," he said.
He did say he felt terrible for the seniors playing their last game at Notre Dame Stadium.
"I feel sick to my stomach. Everyone at Notre Dame takes these losses personally, just like they feel good when they win. But right now I feel absolutely miserable for the seniors," he said.
Golden Tate had two TD catches for the Irish.
"I just go into each game playing. That all of my power. I'm a player. My job is to play, not to make decisions on who's the head coach," he said.
Dantley said it was exciting enough just to play at Notre Dame with all it's history, especially because of what his father did at the school.
"To do that on this type of stage on national TV, it's just a dream come true," he said.
The Irish had one last chance to win in the closing seconds. With 7 seconds left, the Irish could have run one last play before attempting a field goal, but Weis opted to go for a 53-yard kick by Brandon Walker, whose career long is 48. The kick fell well short. Walker was 3-of-6 on field-goal attempts for the game.
"Words can't explain," he said. "I just looked all around me. I pretty much did a 360, just looking at everybody, seeing all those orange helmets up in the air."
The loss was at least as surprising as last year's triple overtime loss to Navy, ending a 43-game winning streak over the Middies -- maybe even more so.
Freshman Antwon Bailey, who entered the game with 66 yards rushing on 13 carries, started the Orange rally with a 26-yard TD run up the middle with 12:30 left that cut the score to 23-17. Bailey finished with 126 yards rushing.
"He's not a surprise," Robinson said. "He's played a little bit already this season. He had a 29-yard touchdown run against Louisville. He's a talented young football player, a true freshman and one that I think has a great career ahead of him."
Notre Dame had a chance to ice the game on the next possession, but a 49-yard field goal attempt by Walker came up short.
The Irish had a chance to stop Syracuse on its final drive, but linebacker Harrison Smith was called for pass interference on third-and-1 from the Notre Dame 39. Bailey ran for 43 yards on six carries during the drive, before Dantley connected with Davis over the middle.
Even before the end, there was some ugliness for Notre Dame.
The Irish players were pelted by snowballs on the sideline for much of the first quarter by fans sitting on the student section. Defensive end Ethan Johnson was struck on the left cheek and several other players also getting hit by snowballs despite three announcement urging fans to stop.
The Irish were booed several times during the game, including Clausen on Notre Dame's next-to-last possession when third-and-8 the Syracuse 31 he missed a wide open David Grimes.
Weis said the key now is to get the Irish ready and thinking they can win next week's game at No. 6 USC.
"If you don't go with that mind-set," he said, "then you're just asking for a massacre."
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