It has been quite an up and down season so far for the Penn State Football team. The highs of overtime thrillers and the lows of being shellacked by Ohio State and (sigh) Indiana. The excitement in watching the progression and maturity of a freshman quarterback, with the frustration of watching one of the most incompetent defenses in years(Decades? Centuries?). No matter how good or bad Penn State is as a team, I always appreciate watching the growth and development of players on an individual level. This is why Daryll Clark is my favorite Penn State player of all time. He waited his turn behind a struggling (god awful and my least favorite Penn State player of this millennium) Anthony Morelli, only to break multiple Penn State records and win MVP of the Big Ten.
Fast forward now to Allen Robinson, the 3 star recruit from Detroit whose second most appealing scholarship offer was from the Minnesota Gophers. To say he has exceeded expectations would be mildly insulting. Robinson just recorded his second 1000 yard season, and there are still 4 games left to play. If he continues his torrid pace, he should be an All American and a first round draft pick this spring. So I analyzed what kind of impact he has had this season, and determined that Penn State could be as bad as 2-6 right now without him. I’m not stupid enough to suggest that if Robinson was not at Penn State that all of his production would disappear, that there is no possibility of other players making great plays, or that every other scenario would be the same. Obviously other receivers would be targeted more but even though Brandon Felder has had a solid year, there is no denying the discrepancy in talent between him and Robinson. Let’s break down the games one by one:
Syracuse: Aside from the obvious point differential provided by Robinson's 133 yards and a touchdown in one half, his immediate success provided a much needed spark for a Penn State team that was only leading 6-3 at half time. On Penn State's first 2 offensive plays of the second half, Allen Robinson caught a 25 yard and 51 yard pass on a scoring drive that lasted all of 34 seconds. Allen Robinson was welcomed back with open arms by Penn State fans everywhere. As poised as Christian Hackenberg has been, it’s hard to say for sure that he would have been capable of leading Penn State on a game winning drive in his first collegiate start, in a “road” environment. Penn State starts off 0-1.
Eastern Michigan: Eastern Michigan has the worst scoring defense in the FBS. Let’s move on. Penn State is 1-1.
UCF:Obviously we lost this game, but it was quite close. Robinson had 9 catches for 143 yards. The second leading receiver had 30 yards. Penn State is 1-2.
Kent State: A messy day for the Penn State passing offense. But like the Eastern Michigan game, this was over before it started. Penn State is 2-2.
Indiana:This was even more tough to watch than the Ohio State game. And the sad part is that Penn State wouldn’t have even been in this game for 3 quarters (all things equal) without Robinson’s 12 catches for 173 yards and 2 TDs. He appeared to be the only Penn State player that was aware that there was a game going on. Penn State is 2-3.
Michigan (still sucks): 50 seconds left. Down 7. We all know the story. Christian Hackenberg caught the nation’s attention with 3 throws. We all know about the Sports Center Top 10 catch at the one yard line. A 36 yard catch is good in any situation, but to do it in the final minute, down 7, bouncing just right off the hidden trampoline that must be placed in that corner of the field (see similar catch against Illinois), was miraculous. But the drive doesn’t get started without his toe-dragging 14 yard catch on the sideline. Then in the 4th overtime, on third down, A-Rob draws pass interference in triple coverage, and Bill Belton gets his walk-off touchdown on the next play. Sure he dropped that fade in the end zone in the same overtime. But without him there isn’t even a FIRST overtime. Penn State is 2-4 without Robinson.
Ohio State: If you were still watching the game when Allen Robinson made this play, good for you. As your reward, you were able to witness possibly the greatest play of the season for PSU second to The Leap against Michigan. Is 63-14 that much better than 63-7? Not really. Penn State is 2-5.
Illinois:At one point in this game, Allen Robinson had 5 receptions for 73 yards while Christian Hackenberg was 6 for 8 with 72 yards…. Third to Tim Beckman and Bill Belton, Allen Robinson won this game for Penn State. He had his typical 100+ effort and Penn State still won despite everyone else’s best efforts to be generous and give the Illini a win. Penn State is 2-6 without Allen Robinson.
I would say at best, without Allen Robinson Penn State is 3-5. You could flip a coin for Syracuse and Illinois while marking Michigan as a loss since there is no way the game tying drive happens without A-Rob. But I think that 2-6 is not out of the question. Or am I a complete idiot? I’m definitely open to hearing your reasoning for the latter. With his performance this year, he has given us more than we deserve and I will instantly become a fan of whatever team drafts him this spring (except the Patriots ***************************** the Patriots). However far away the light at the end of the tunnel is for the Penn State football program, that light would have been extinguished a few games ago if not for Allen Robinson. I can’t see many high school recruits willing to commit to a 2-6 Penn State team, especially not the few that have committed to Penn State since attending the Michigan game. So thank you Allen Robinson, and best of luck to you in the future.