Mike Denbrock got to work on Corey Robinson after his two-point drop.
Soaked on the sidelines Saturday night in a game that felt like it was slipping away from Notre Dame more than it actually was, the Irish receivers coach grabbed Robinson to remind him that he was in Memorial Stadium for a reason. Denbrock kept it simple, telling Robinson he’s a good player during the worst night of his college career.
Robinson needed to hear it.
The renaissance receiver dropped a sure touchdown and a two-point bullet from DeShone Kizer that could have put the Irish in position to come all the way back in an eventual 24-22 loss.
“I just didn’t make the plays,” Robinson said. “I didn’t step up when I needed to. You can’t blame it on anything. You can’t blame it on the weather, you can’t blame it on the throws, you can’t blame it on anything.
“As a receiver, my one job is to catch and I didn’t do that.”
Robinson has been a non-factor in Notre Dame’s offense all season with five catches for just 60 yards through four games. He missed the Massachusetts game with a sprained right knee, suffered during pre-game stretching.
It’s been a sharp fall since his breakout at Florida State of eight catches, 99 yards, two touchdowns and one game-winning score wiped out by penalty. In the 10 games played since, Robinson has totaled just 18 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Not only is Robinson an afterthought in the box score, he’s barely getting a look in the pass game. Robinson has been targeted just eight times all season, meaning twice per game. Last year he got 75 targets, which averaged to 5.8 looks per game.
“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “I believe in Corey. Corey's got to believe in himself, and he will. He's got to go attack the football. He's letting the football come to him. He's letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”
Kelly didn’t dismiss benching Robinson for Torii Hunter Jr. or Equanimeous St. Brown outright, but it’s clear the Irish head coach favors getting Robinson right over a lineup change. Robinson sits seventh on Notre Dame’s roster in catches after finishing second last year. He’s admitted to a crisis of confidence over the Clemson performance.
“Sometimes you get into a rut and you’ve made a couple bad drops or run a couple wrong routes, you start getting down on yourself,” Robinson said. “Just knowing that we got here in the first place, I’m a good player, my teammates have confidence in me, my coaches have confidence in me. You just gotta know it’s a one-time occurrence opposed a defining aspects or characteristic of your game.”
If Robinson turns around his season this weekend it will be against his father’s alma mater, where the omnipresent David Robinson was an All-American center before growing into an NFL Hall of Famer. Ideally, that would be the narrative for Robinson this week with questions about his game’s progress against that Navy backdrop.
Instead, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete faced queries about a junior season lost to date.
“I think I just grew more timid toward the way I went after the ball,” Robinson said. “I kind of lost sight of the receiver I was and am. I gotta go back every day on the practice field and kind of re-hit the fundamentals and rediscover the game that I lost sight of a little bit.”