M-Rob Silences Critics — For Now

There was a familiar feeling of unrest at Beaver Stadium during the first half of Penn State's 42-24 win over Cincinnati Saturday. It was brought about by more sloppy play from fifth-year senior quarterback Michael Robinson following a sub-par performance against South Florida a week earlier.


After he went 2 of 5 for 13 yards and an interception in the first quarter, the faint wail of boos in the student section became more discernable. It grew louder as Robinson and the offense continued to struggle in the second quarter.

“I understand why they did it,” he said. “It's about time we start getting things going.”

After avoiding what seemed to be a certain sack and throwing a touchdown to seldom-utilized tight end Patrick Hall with just under two minutes remaining in the first half to put Penn State up 14-3, Robinson was still a lowly 4 of 9 for 44 yards, including an interception.

While the fans were getting their food at halftime and tossing around the idea of replacing the maligned QB with sophomore backup Anthony Morelli, Robinson was in the locker room thinking about the rest of the game, not dwelling on the criticism or his past mistakes. “I'm a lot more hard on myself than the crowd could ever be,” he said.

The anxiousness reached a fevered pitch when only a few minutes into the second half Robinson lost the ball after slicing through a crease and gaining 23 yards. The Bearcats recovered. The booing was back in full force after the fumble, Robinson's third in the first two games as a starter. They would be silenced quickly on the next Penn State drive.

“I told him that he got a little careless and to forget about it,” said PSU coach Joe Paterno.

On the 10th play of the ensuing Cincinnati drive, Calvin Lowry forced a fumble that was recovered by Paul Cronin at the Penn State 41-yard line. As Robinson walked back onto the field, his detractors were up in arms, and would be again in about eight seconds, albeit for an entirely different reason.

The first play of the drive, Robinson aired it out down the right sideline to freshman wideout Justin King, who made an over-the-shoulder grab and took it 59 yards for the score, setting the stadium ablaze. It was the longest Nittany Lion passing touchdown since 2003.

The next time Penn State got the ball, the Nittany Lions went right back to the air, with Robinson throwing another pass on target to freshman Derrick Williams for 41 yards to the Cincinnati 5-yard line.

“I didn't even see him catch it, said Robinson with a relieved smile on his face. “Honestly, I was on the ground. I just heard the crowd get hyped.

“Coach Paterno came in at halftime and said they couldn't handle the speed on the outside,” he continued. “We just wanted to stretch it vertical and stop them from blitzing so much.”

“He missed a couple deep ones early,” added Paterno. “I think he pressed a little.”

The newly unveiled Penn State passing attack wasn't finished yet, as Robinson would complete one more pinpoint long ball in the fourth quarter. This time it was to another freshman, Deon Butler, who pulled in the pass as he fell over the goal line for the score. Robinson completed seven of his last eight throws, ending the game a solid 11 of 17 for 220 yards and tying a career high with three touchdowns while adding another on the ground.

“I expect Mike to do that,” said senior tackle Levi Brown. “He has to be a leader out there. He can't have a bad game; every game has to be good.”

“He was just more relaxed,” added junior tailback Austin Scott. “He just felt better, got the game speed and got his mistakes out of the way.”

For the better part of a half, at least, the critics were silenced. But even if they are heard again as the season goes along, Robinson said he won't pay heed. Nor will his coach.

“He's going to be fine,” Paterno said.


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