Corey Robinson responds to backslide

Since his eight-catch, 99-yard, two-touchdown performance against Florida State in mid-October of 2014, Robinson has 21 receptions and two touchdowns in 13 games.

It would have been a perfect time for Notre Dame’s renaissance man to accept his fate, put chasing a pigskin around a 100-yard pitch of grass in perspective, and begin the process of transitioning from student-athlete to a man with a golden future beyond football.

You can’t derail Corey Robinson that easily.

Haunted by a dropped pass at the goal line and a mishandled two-point conversion toss in the fourth quarter against Clemson, the 6-foot-4 ½, 215-pound junior responded with a couple of receptions for 28 yards against Navy.

He topped off a two-week redemption quest with a diving 10-yard touchdown reception against USC to give Notre Dame a fourth-quarter lead it would not relinquish in a 41-31 victory over the Trojans.

“I really appreciate all the support my coaches and teammates have given to me the last couple weeks,” Robinson said. “I was happy, praise God, that I was able to make a play for them. They needed me to make a play and thank God I was able to.”

The touchdown was Robinson’s first of the 2015 season and just the second since his starring role in Notre Dame’s devastating 31-27 loss at Florida State in mid-October of 2014 when he caught eight passes for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Over the last 13 games since those heroics against the Seminoles, Robinson has 21 receptions – less than two per game -- and two scores.

“I just wanted to contribute to the team in any way possible, whether that was blocking or catching a ball or scoring a touchdown,” Robinson said. “Whatever the team needed me to do to step up and make a play, that’s what I wanted to do for the team’s success.

“This time, it was a touchdown. But it could have been a catch for a first down or a simple pitch and a block for C.J. (Prosise). I’m just very blessed to be able to help out. That’s how I view my confidence, within the structure of the team.”

Robinson was at the top of Brian Kelly’s project list in the two weeks since the Clemson loss.

“It’s something we had worked on,” said Kelly of the process of rebuilding Robinson’s confidence. “He had a great week of practice. His focus in terms of wanting to attack the football instead of letting the football play him was a point of emphasis.”

To no one’s surprise, a determined Robinson fought back for all that he had worked so hard to achieve.

“What I love about him is his response,” Kelly said. “It’s really about how you respond to adversity and his response was outstanding in that he went back to work. His practice was outstanding over the last couple weeks. (Against USC), he aggressively went after the football and it paid off.”

Robinson’s touchdown against the Trojans gave the Irish a 38-31 lead with 9:06 remaining.  It was Notre Dame’s first lead in more than 24 minutes.

“The play before, it was man (coverage) as well,” Robinson explained. “I was to the field (side) and we ran a go, and Coach liked the look, but DK (DeShone Kizer) looked the other way.

“So we did the same thing into the boundary the next time and I knew it was going to be one-on-one and that I had to beat him on the outside. I just took it outside and DK threw it back shoulder. I had a release and had to do whatever it took to catch the ball by diving and staying in bounds.

“When I rolled over, all the guys were in my face and I knew it was a touchdown.”

Two weeks earlier, in the bowels of Clemson’s Memorial Stadium following a 24-22 loss to the Tigers, an earnest Corey Robinson looked up into the eyes of his 7-foot-1 father, former NBA great David Robinson, for some much-needed counsel.

“My dad has been through it all,” Robinson said. “He’s been in the spotlight where everyone praised his name and he won a championship. But he’s also had everyone blame him for a terrible season.

“So he knows everything that comes with being a professional athlete and an athlete who’s in the spotlight. At Notre Dame, that’s what we are – athletes in the spotlight. He was just telling me to keep my head up and keep working because you can’t let the past affect the present and the future.”

With a key touchdown reception under his belt and two weeks of hard work to get his mind right, Robinson hopes to be ascending back up as he was 13 games ago in his starring role against Florida State.

“Last year we had a rough time at USC,” Robinson reflected. “That was motivation to get back and play our kind of game that we know we can play.

“We’ve got five more games. I can’t let one game two or three weeks ago affect the rest of the season, especially when I’m in a position to help contribute to the team’s success.”


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