SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Cameron Dantley, son of one of Notre Dame’s basketball greats, threw an 11-yard TD pass to Donte Davis with 42 seconds left, to lead Syracuse to a 24-23 victory Saturday against the stunned and disheartened Fighting Irish.
The Orange trailed 23-10 in the fourth quarter before rallying as Notre Dame struggled mightily on offense. The Irish came away with just six points after starting four times inside the Syracuse 23-yard line.
The victory allowed Syracuse (3-8) to avoid a third 10-loss season in four years under coach Greg Robinson, who was fired last week, effective the end of the season.
Dantley, the son of former NBA star Adrian Dantley, was 13-of-25 passing for 126 yards.
For the Irish (6-5), losing to a 19½-underdog ranks among the worst losses in school history and leaves coach Charlie Weis with a 28-20 record in four seasons.
Weis’s 58.3 winning percentage is the same that Bob Davie was fired with after five seasons and Tyrone Willingham after three. Weis has seven years left after this season on a 10-year contract.
The Irish had one last chance to win in the closing seconds, but a 53-yard field goal-attempt by Brandon Walker fell well short. Walker was 3-of-6 on field goals for the game.
The loss was at least as surprising as last year’s triple overtime loss to Navy, ending a 43-game winning streak over the Irish — maybe even moreso.
Freshman Antwon Bailey, who entered the game with 66 yards rushing on 13 carries, started the Orange rally with a 26-yard TD run up the middle with 12:30 left that cut the score to 23-17. Bailey finished with 126 yards rushing.
Notre Dame held the Orange to three-and-out on their next possession and had a chance to ice the game, but a 49-yard field goal attempt by Walker came up short.
The Irish had a chance to hold Syracuse to three-and-out on its next possession, but linebacker Harrison Smith — who had a key penalty that helped Pittsburgh win in overtime — was called for pass interference on third-and-1 from the Notre Dame 39. Bailey ran for 43 yards on six carries during the drive before Dantley completed a 9-yard pass to Tony Fiammetta and the game-winner to Davis.
Jimmy Clausen threw two touchdown passes to Golden Tate, but couldn’t get the sputtering Irish offense going.