Tuesday, October 11, 2005

M-Rob's Progression Fuels Penn State's Rejuvenated Attack

To be blunt, Michael Robinson's performance in Penn State's first four games was abysmal. Other than ex-Penn State reserve Chris Ganter, he was one of the worst prepared senior QB's that I have ever watched. Legendary Berwick (Pennsylvania) High head coach George Curry looked like a fool after he had praised Michael Robinson's development during the offseason when Robinson appeared at a Curry QB clinic at Berwick in the spring. Now it appears that Michael Robinson will have the last laugh.

I will admit that I was one of the many Penn State fans who called for Anthony Morelli after Michael Robinson's four turnovers in the first half against Northwestern. Robinson hadn't looked particularly sharp against South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan either. He threw poor passes that ended up getting run back the other way and he was careless carrying the football. Michael Robinson has not committed a turnover, fumble or interception, since the Northwestern game and has been instrumental in Penn State's two biggest victories since 1999 against Minnesota and Ohio State over the past two weeks.

We have all known that Michael Robinson is a very gifted athlete. He has been a regular for Penn State on offense since his redshirt freshman year in 2002 when he burst onto the scene as a slash-type player and made for a dangerous combo in the backfield with Larry Johnson when Robinson lined up at QB or RB. Zack Mills was only a sophomore at that point but we all thought that M-Rob was going to be our stud QB of the future. Unfortunately, the staff then for two years misused Robinson, moving him from position to position on offense and then forcing him into the starting QB role when Mills was injured. It was no wonder Robinson looked so awful in most of his performances, having usually just a week to prepare to face some of the best defenses in the country. All of that culminated into absolute doubt from just about every Penn State fan. It was written in stone- Robinson can't throw. Robinson turns the ball over too much. Robinson won't use all of wide receivers. The list went on and on. And it held true too through the season's first three and a half games. Then everything changed in the second half against Northwestern. At one point down 23-7, the Nittany Lions rallied back and won 34-29 on two instrumental Robinson passes. The first came on a 4th and 15 deep in Penn State territory. Instead of locking onto a receiver or scrambling, Robinson found tight end Isaac Smolko across the middle for the first down. The Lions continued to move the ball down the field and approached the Northwestern 35. On 3rd down the Lions snapped the ball and Robinson found himself under immediate pressure from the Wildcats defense. He ducked and found Derrick Williams near the 10 yard line. It looked like Robinson had just heaved it away to avoid the sack but instead it was the much heralded freshman who not only made the catch but ducked the defender and scored, giving PSU their fourth victory and it marked the end of Robinson's struggles.

Since the Northwestern game, Robinson has been outstanding. Against Minnesota, Robinson was 13-32 for 175 yards and he rushed for 115 yards. This past weekend against Ohio State, Robinson was 11-20 for just 78 yards but he rushed for 54 yards and a TD. While those aren't outstanding numbers, they are solid, especially the no turnovers. Tony Hunt has emerged as a tremendous tailback and has taken some of the load off of Penn State's passing game. Robinson has looked much better carrying the ball, not running as wreckleesly with it. He is also starting to force less passes. Robinson continues to improve week to week but he may get a little bit of a breather this week. While Michigan's defense isn't a slouch, it is nowhere near as talented as Ohio State's. Penn State should be able to move the ball on the ground and pass enough to win. However, Joe Paterno has said that Penn State will exploit the weaknesses of the opposing defense so they're going to take what Michigan gives them. Frankly, I like Penn State's offense against Michigan's defense


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