Others emerged in his wake, and Notre Dame’s offense suffered little ill-effects from his across-the-board drop-off in production, but Corey Robinson’s 2015 statistical swan dive remains notable nonetheless.
The affable junior has shown previously he can perform at the highest level and against the best the sport has to offer – notably against defending national champion Florida State last October, riddling the Seminoles secondary for eight receptions, 100 yards, and two scores – with a third famously called back to conclude the contest.
It’s thus logical to assume he can do it again, and January 1 against what head coach Brian Kelly calls, “the best team in the country” would be an ideal place to start.
“One of the biggest things for me is being able to make a play when my team needs to me to make a play,” Robinson said. “And that means I have to run the right type of (crisp) route, all the time. The first quarter I might run a dig and not get the ball, but in the fourth quarter I might have to do it again. Never take a play off.
“For me it’s understanding that every play is a new play. Really looking at the game (situation) and saying, ‘Okay, what do I need to do to be prepared if they need me to make a big play?’”
Robinson made such a play on the game’s penultimate drive in Palo Alto – the “should-have-been-game-winner” if you’re an Irish fan – collecting a 3rd-and-10 off-balance bullet from DeShone Kizer for a 22-yard gain.
But those moments, prevalent in 2014, were few and far between this fall. In fact, the 22-yard gain was Robinson’s longest of the season, and the first in excess of 20 yards since the season opener.
Reasons for Robinson’s decreased production as a junior after a breakout sophomore season are many, but merely noting that “W” position-mate Chris Brown stepped up isn’t chief among them.
And while the team’s No. 1 target Will Fuller posted similar numbers between 2014-15, and so too did the squad’s slot tandem (Torii Hunter, Jr. and Amir Carlisle recorded two more combined receptions this season than did Carlisle and C.J. Prosise in 2014) it was Robinson who suffered a statistical dip.
-- 2014 Chris Brown – 72 targets, 39 receptions, 548 yards, 2 TD, 8 receptions of 20 yards or greater.
-- 2015 Chris Brown – 71 targets, 44 receptions, 562 yards, 3 TD, 26 first downs gained in 12 games to date.
-- 2014 Corey Robinson – 75 targets, 40 receptions, 539 yards, 5 TD, 8 receptions of 20 yards or greater.
-- 2015 Corey Robinson – 32 targets, 13 receptions, 159 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions of 20 yards or greater, 12 first downs gained in 11 games played to date.
While it’s unlikely Robinson will pace the Irish offense in receptions or receiving yards against Ohio State on Friday afternoon, the six-foot-five-inch weapon could be called upon to make an impact where he initially announced his presence as a pass-catching weapon.
The Red Zone.
It’s an area of the field in which the Irish offense scuffled at times in 2015 and that includes Robinson, he of the one touchdown catch (a 10-yard fade route vs. USC) after securing eight scores over his first two seasons.
“It’s often the wrong read, whether (the quarterback) is looking at the other side of the field or (the wide receivers) run the wrong route, and then it doesn’t come together after all that work we put in,” said Robinson of his position group’s focus during bowl prep. “We’re trying to figure out why the mistakes happen. Communication is the key to being successful in the red zone.”
And the red zone is the key to beating Ohio State, with Robinson potentially reclaiming his crucial role among myriad Irish offensive weapons.