After throwing three interceptions and losing one fumble in the first half of last weekend's game, quarterback and team captain Michael Robinson is pointing a finger squarely at himself.
It's definitely a concern, Robinson said. I put our team in a bad situation, and I've been trying to make a conscious effort to hold onto the ball with two hands, trying to be less careless. That's what I've been the last few games, careless.
After giving their first four opponents 13 freebies (and ranking last in the conference in turnover margin at minus-5), the Nittany Lions are still 4-0 and in the thick of the Big Ten race, thanks in part to Robinson and his quartet of freshman receivers. They have opened up the offense and taken pressure off of a defense that carried the team so often last season.
Yet through four games, Robinson has six interceptions and eight fumbles (four of which were lost). And he knows that the big boys in the Big Ten won't grant the Nittany Lions mercy the way struggling Northwestern did. Penn State now faces a gauntlet that includes Minnesota (this week) and Ohio State at Beaver Stadium, then a road trip to Michigan.
I got those things out of my system, hopefully, the fifth-year senior said. With the fumbles, I know personally I'm the one that dropped the ball. With the interceptions, one or two of them I probably could have taken the check down and made it an easier catch for the receiver.
I have to be more careful with the ball, he added. I'm a guy who strives to be perfect, and I hate to put our team at a disadvantage. That's what I've been doing.
While acknowledging the problem and attempting to solve it are both steps in the right direction, Robinson knows that he'll have a target on his chest every time he touches the ball from here on out.
If I was a defender, I would go after the ball every single time I touched it, he explained.
After putting together a drive for the ages to win last weekend, Robinson and his teammates are riding an obvious high heading into Saturday's matchup. But Robinson knows how quickly that high can turn into a low against the Gophers.
We have to cut down on the turnovers, and a lot of it has to do with me, he said