Seven straight loses later, Syracuse sits at 1-8 and searching to pick up the pieces. The Orange hit rock bottom last weekend when they were shut out at home by South Florida. In that loss, the Orange gained less than 200 total yards in total offense. For the season, Syracuse ranks 102nd or worse in the major statistical offensive categories. The lone highlight of the contest was the retiring of the #44 jersey worn by such Orange greats as Jim Brown and Rob Konrad. This year has been a learning experience for the first year head coach.
"If it's dealing with adversity, I've dealt with adversity a lot in my life," Robinson said. "Loss of family, loss of a lot of things like that, you persevere. So, get tested here, yeah. Learned? I like to think that I've learned a lot of things in the last 10 months. Specific to what it is right now? I don't know. I haven't had time to reflect. Just being here and experiencing all this, I hope I've learned a lot. I hope I've learned about being a head football coach. I've learned a lot about Syracuse. I really have. I've learned a lot about this place. I've learned a lot about this community. I do know that."
The road does not get any easier this Saturday. The Orange travel to South Bend to take on 6th ranked Notre Dame. Charlie Weis, who also is in his first year as head coach, has turned around a team that went 6-6 in 2004 to a formidable force, especially on offense. Irish quarterback Brady Quinn is frequently mentioned in Heisman Trophy discussions and is leading a unit that is 10th in the nation in total offense. The only help: Syracuse boasts the 6th best pass defense in the country. Robinson and his team are not going to back down from the challenge.
"We're going to be competitive in this ball game," Robinson said. "Darn right we are. I hope to be more than competitive. You have to go in there with a mind set that we are going to find a way. That's what we as coaches, even early this morning, the whole staff working together toward that. How are we together going to make this thing work. I like that that is what the staff is doing right now. They're hard at it."
Robinson and Weis's paths have crossed in the past. Both have multiple Super Bowl rings as assistant coaches in the NFL, Robinson with the Denver Broncos and Weis with the New England Patriots. The two know each other both personally and schematically. But Saturday will be the first time the two meet as head coaches. Robinson sees a lot of similarities between Weis and his mentors.
"Charlie is a good football coach," Robinson said. "He's been mentored well and he's a good football coach. He's bright and he understands the passing game extremely well, and then working with Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, he has a much greater appreciation for the running game. Charlie is a very, very good football coach and a good person, too.
"I think some of this goes back to Bill Parcells. He comes out against Tennessee and throws three straight screen passes. Four straight. There's something being said there. What the message was to Tennessee there was I don't know but there was a message. It meant something. They took that drive 12 plays, right down and scored. But, you don't normally see four screen plays in a row. I was going to go back the week before and see if they had major problems in the screen game. That's just one thing. I watched that and I said, ‘Charlie, is that you or is that Bill?' That's something Bill would do -- run it again. I coached when Bill was calling some of those plays at the Jets. Charlie might not admit to that, but Bill was calling a few of them because I watched him from the sidelines."