Linebacker U was in full effect at the NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu Sunday. But a receiver from Penn State REALLY stole the show.
Four former Nittany Lions earned spots in this year’s NFL all-star game, and three of them were linebackers. That led to a shout-out to “Linebacker U” from ESPN color commentator Jon Gruden, and a sideline interview with two of the former PSU LBs by reporter Lisa Salters (who happens to be a former Lady Lion basketball player).
As well as the one-time Nittany Lion defenders played, though, the receiver had the biggest impact on the game. Here is the breakdown of how things went from a Penn State perspective in Team Irvin’s 49-27 win over Team Rice.
• Team Irvin’s second-year receiver Allen Robinson had a huge game. In the third quarter, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ standout caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to give Team Irvin a 35-21 lead.
Earlier, Robinson opened the second quarter with a 48-yard catch and run from Russell Wilson. Robinson was pushed out of bounds at the Team Rice 28, but Team Irvin scored four plays later (on a Wilson-to-Todd Gurley 10-yard connection) to take a 21-7 lead.
• Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Sean Lee helped swing momentum in Team Irvin’s favor in the first quarter, when he intercepted an Eli Manning pass and returned it 14 yards to the Team Rice 28-yard line.
It set up Wilson’s 6-yard TD pass to Devonta Freeman which, coupled with a two-point conversion, gave Team Irvin a 14-0 lead.
Lee also intercepted a pass off a fake extra-point kick attempt late in the game.
• Team Irvin LB NaVorro Bowman of the San Francisco 49ers intercepted a deflected Derek Carr pass late in the first quarter. But cornerback Richard Sherman was hit with a dicey pass interference penalty on the play, wiping out Bowman’s pick.
But … Bowman was not to be denied. Late in the game, Team Rice QB Tyrod Taylor threw a pass that was tipped by Malcolm Jenkins and Bowman picked it off in the end zone.
Late in the game, Salters interviewed Bowman and Lee — who were teammates at PSU in the late 2000s — on the sideline.
“Representing Linebacker U,” Bowman said. “It’s all good.”
“We’ve played so many snaps together, when we get our there, it’s all good,” Lee added.
• Kansas City Chiefs’ OLB Tamba Hali played for Team Rice. But in a game where pass-rushers like Hali are not allowed to blitz, he was not able to post any significant stats. He finished with one tackle.