SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame knows from experience it can't count any opponent out.
From needing big plays in a fourth-quarter rally to beat San Diego State in their first game to surviving after Navy recovered two onside kicks in the final two minutes last week, not much has come easy for the Fighting Irish (6-4) this season.
So they're not expecting anything different from a Syracuse team playing its first game since coach Greg Robinson was fired on Sunday.
``Teams in that kind of position, if you let them hang around, those teams can be dangerous,'' Notre Dame linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. said. ``I think for them nothing else will make their season than beating Notre Dame. I think that would almost validate their whole season with everything that's going on.''
tscored overall in the final period 94-20, by far their worst quarter.
The biggest concern for Irish coach Charlie Weis is that Robinson, who is staying on for the final two games, and his staff have no concerns. They're no longer worried about their jobs, so they can take risks - like possibly opening the game with an onside kick against a team that looked so inept in handling them last week.
The Irish spent a full period Wednesday practicing against onside kicks.
``It's expecting the unexpected,'' Crum said.
The Irish will also be without two key players, linebacker Brian Smith and wide receiver Michael Floyd, who both suffered knee strains last week.
At this point, Syracuse fans are more interested in who will be the next coach than in whether the Orange can beat the Irish. Despite a tumultuous week, though, Robinson has managed to stay upbeat and enthusiastic and has worked to keep his team focused.
``It's been the same as every week, people flying around to the ball,'' tailback Curtis Brinkley said. ``Coach is still coaching.''
Robinson, who has a record of 9-36 as a coach, said he'll wait until after the season to think about what could have or should have been. Right now he's focused on the Orange.
could go and win this week, it would do a whole lot for them down the road.''
Both teams still have things to play for. A year after going 3-9, the Irish still have a chance of earning an invitation to the Cotton or Gator bowls. But with a game against No. 6 USC looming - a team that has beaten the Irish six straight times - a loss Saturday might send Notre Dame to the Sun Bowl.
Syracuse, which never had a 10-loss season before Robinson was named coach in 2004, needs to beat either the Irish or No. 19 Cincinnati to avoid its third 10-loss season in four years. For his part, Robinson isn't worried about his team not showing up ready to play.
``They will play. There's no question in my mind,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Weis has to worry about how is team will react, especially the seniors playing their last game at Notre Dame Stadium. He's been surprised in years past by how emotional some seniors have become in the final games, so he tells the other players its up to them to make sure the Irish win.
``Because the last thing you want to do is have their last game at home in their career be a loss,'' he said.
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