The subject of this face-off should come as no surprise.
Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson had a crazy afternoon in Penn State's 34-29 win over Northwestern in Evanston Saturday. He had four turnovers, several more near-turnovers, yet led an inspired last-minute drive that resulted in the game-winning score.
The question: Should the Penn State coaching staff stick with Robinson as the starter, even after the near-disaster against the Wildcats?
BRENNAN: Robinson has so many of the tools needed to be a great quarterback. He is a terrific athlete. He is extremely intelligent. He is a natural leader. And on Saturday, he showed me he has the heart of winner. But he still doesn't have the feel for the position needed to be a standout QB in the Big Ten. At this point, with only seven regular-season games left in his career, it is debatable whether he will ever have that.
However, the coaching staff is between the proverbial rock and a hard place here. Because Robinson holds such central leadership role in the program - for players on both sides of the ball, but especially for the young wideouts who are clearly the foundation for the future - I get the sense pulling him could hurt team morale. And for an outfit that has captured four games to open the season for the first time since 1999 well, it just doesn't make sense to mess with a winning formula, no matter how ugly one of those victories may have been.
HARRINGTON: This situation ended up working out for PSU, but I honestly think this game was won on a pass and a prayer. I can't think of any other team that would allow three interceptions and a fumble in a half by any player and not, first, penalize that player by benching him and, second, want to change things up to find success. These turnovers have been a chronic issue through the first four games.
Granted all of the turnovers were not Robinson's fault alone, like when A.Q. Shipley was bull-rushed into him, resulting in a intercepted duck pass. However, at some stage the interceptions and tipped passes have to become the responsibility of your quarterback. I have said it since game one - turnovers will result in the demise of this team, today that should have happened, but the Lions dodged a bullet. Looking at the upcoming slate of opponents: I doubt Penn State will be so lucky if it continues to cough up the ball. Robinson has to make protecting the ball priority one and understand there will be consequences if he doesn't do so.
BRENNAN'S FINAL WORD: Wow, we made it this far with no mention of backup Anthony Morelli, the most popular man in Happy Valley. But that is another reason I would stick with Robinson - for the time being. Morelli has looked great in mop-up action this year, but does anyone really know what he can do with a game on the line? Getting back to Robinson, I was stunned the staff DID NOT pull him after the ugly first half. And you are absolutely correct to note that six interceptions and eight fumbles (four lost) in four games does not cut it. But some of that falls on the staff, as well, for not exposing Robinson to contact in the spring and preseason. And I'm sure one reason the coaches did not expose him to contact was because they were not sure about Morelli being ready to handle the pressure of a tight game. So far, Robinson has produced in the clutch. Until that changes, I give him the benefit of the doubt.
HARRINGTON'S FINAL WORD: Well, the offensive line looked vastly improved in terms of pass protection and structural integrity with E.Z. Smith stepping in at center. That would play out well for Morelli, who is a drop-back pocket passer. In turn, this would provide further evidence to bench Robinson if he can't hold onto the ball. You rarely see improvement if there are no consequences.
There is zero evidence thus far that Morelli CAN'T produce in a clutch. Every opportunity he has had this year, though limited, he has performed, going 24 for 36 (66.6 percent) with one touchdown and no interceptions. With a stronger offensive line and a stable of freshman phenoms pulling in his passes, I would say if Robinson has another bout of the turnovers that Morelli should get the nod so he can show the Nittany Nation what he can do.
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