Penn State quarterback Steven Bench (12) is tackled by Virginia linebacker LaRoy Reynolds (9) in the first half Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.
By Mark Dent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Allen Robinson couldn't enjoy the first touchdown of his career. All he could do was lay there, the wind knocked out of him.
Matt McGloin's pass had been a little overthrown. It didn't matter. Robinson dived, caught the ball and slammed against the turf.
Symbolism noted. In a season defined by struggle, Robinson has given everything for Penn State.
He has 19 catches for 186 yards in the first two games. His career totals of three receptions for 29 yards were surpassed in the first quarter against Ohio University.
"He's a guy that has done a really good job of understanding what we're trying to do," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "... He's big, he's fast, he's got good hands."
Somebody needed to replace Justin Brown. Brown was not exactly Randy Moss, but he was the best Penn State had. His 35 receptions for 517 yards were much more than any other returning receiver. The final weekend before preseason camp, he transferred to Oklahoma.
It became apparent that Robinson would be the one. In the first weeks of practice, the defensive backs complimented him as the hardest to stop. McGloin said he was his favorite practice target. O'Brien always talked about a receiving rotation for six or seven guys but then mentioned Robinson was a sure-fire starter.
He had worked to get to this point. Robinson came to Penn State a year ago as a three-star recruit from St. Mary's High School in Michigan. The main story line upon his arrival at Penn State was more about his reunion with then-quarterback Rob Bolden than hype for anything he had done.
Last season, Robinson recorded a three catches in three games. In the offseason, O'Brien pointed out some deficiencies in his game. Yes, he was big, fast and had good hands. But mainly, Robinson needed to concentrate on running routes.
In the summer, he, McGloin and other receivers often spent extra time after workouts throwing the ball around. The added practice allowed Robinson to understand the playbook and all the formations. With those aspects memorized, his sole concern turned to running routes.
O'Brien hesitated to call Robinson a go-to receiver before the season began, saying his offense relied on throwing to the open target more than to one person. Most of the season remains, but Robinson has proven to be a primary target from the very beginning.
He had six receptions in the first quarter of the season opener. No other wide receiver even has one-third as many passes as Robinson (though tight end Kyle Carter has 10). And now that Shawney Kersey has left the team for personal reasons, Robinson's role should only increase further.
He is certainly talking like a receiver who expects more. Tuesday, Robinson was already discussing another pass from Saturday. The touchdown mattered, but he missed a pass from reserve quarterback Steven Bench late in the first half, falling in the end zone as it barely extended beyond his grasp. He wanted that one, too.
"It would've been a difficult catch," Robinson said, "but I definitely think that's a pass I should have caught."
NOTES -- McGloin, who injured his elbow Saturday, said he has been participating in every drill at practice. ... Center Matt Stankiewitch said left tackle Donovan Smith had not been practicing. He said Mike Farrell had been playing left tackle and Adam Gress right tackle.