M-Rob, A.Z. Make the Cut

Michael Robinson is in the hunt for the O'Brien Award. Teammate Alan Zemaitis has been named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. The trophies honor the top quarterback and defensive back in the nation, respectively.

Penn State senior Michael Robinson has been named as one of 15 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. Robinson has led the Nittany Lions to a 9-1 overall record, including a Big Ten best 6-1 conference mark, a No. 6 ranking in the AP poll this week as well as the No. 5 spot in the BCS rankings.

Meanwhile, PSU cornerback Alan Zemaitis has been named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented to the nation's top defensive back. A senior tri-captain, Zemaitis is one of 12 semifinalists and the only player from a Big Ten team to make the Thorpe Award list.

Two Nittany Lions are on the list of past recipients of the O'Brien Award. Todd Blackledge garnered the honor in 1982 with Kerry Collins winning in 1994.

The O'Brien Award winner is selected by a committee composed of national sportswriters and commentators as well as former O'Brien Award winners. Three finalists will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 22, by the National College Football Awards Association. The winner of the O'Brien Award will be announced live on ESPN at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Orlando, Fla., at 7:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 8. A dinner at the Fort Worth Club to honor the winner will be held Feb. 20, 2006, in Fort Worth, Texas.

During Robinson's superlative season, he has amassed a school record 2,687 yards of total offense (268.7 ypg), breaking All-American Collins' mark of 2,260 yards set in the Lions' undefeated 1994 season. In his first full season at quarterback, Robinson has passed for 1,992 yards, with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He is second on the team in rushing with 695 yards and 10 scores, averaging a superb 5.2 yards per carry. He is the first Penn State quarterback to have 10 rushing touchdowns in a season.

A tri-captain, Robinson has led Penn State to more than 500 yards in total offense four times this season. The Lions are averaging 437.4 ypg and 35.6 ppg. The former Varina High School standout is the first Nittany Lion to post 300 yards of total offense four times in a season. His five career 300-yard games also are a record.

After his PSU record-tying six-touchdown effort in 26 minutes against Illinois earlier this season, Robinson earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. In the Lions' 35-14 win over No. 14 Wisconsin this past Saturday, he accumulated 363 yards of total offense, tied for sixth-highest in school history. Robinson passed for 238 yards, including scoring strikes of 43 and 47 yards to Deon Butler. He also ran for a career-high 125 yards on 16 carries for an average 7.8 ypg against the Badgers.

After spending most of his first three seasons at wide receiver (52 rec., 629 yds, 3 TD) and tailback (831 yds, 9 TD), Robinson has emerged as one of the nation's top quarterbacks during his senior season. He is responsible for 25 touchdowns this year, which is tied for second in the school record books and is four TDs away from the Penn State season mark. He is sixth in the nation, having accounted for 150 points. His 40 career touchdowns are fifth best all-time by a Nittany Lion. Robinson is only the second quarterback in Penn State history with multiple 100-yard rushing games.

Robinson earned his degree in Advertising and Public Relations in 3 and 1/2 years, and is on schedule to earn a second degree in Journalism in December.

The Thorpe will be narrowed to three finalists on Nov. 21. The winner will be announced on ESPN's College Football Awards Show with the formal award presentation in Oklahoma City on February 7, 2006.

Zemaitis is an integral member of Penn State's nationally ranked defense, a unit that is in the top 15 nationally in four categories. One of nation's top cover corners, the intense and hard-hitting Zemaitis has delivered several critical plays in helping the Nittany Lions to a 9-1 record, including:

  • Last Saturday, he made the play of the game with a leaping interception in the end zone to stop No. 14 Wisconsin on second and goal, with the Nittany Lions leading 14-0. Penn State proceeded to march 80 yards for a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter and led by at least 14 points the rest of the game en route to a 35-14 victory over the Badgers.

  • At Michigan, he made a solo tackle of quarterback Chad Henne and ripped the ball away, returning it 35 yards to give Penn State the lead in the fourth quarter.

  • Against Cincinnati, he grabbed an interception and forced a fumble leading to 14 points.

  • In the season opener against South Florida, he picked up a fumble and returned it 16 yards for a first quarter touchdown in the 23-13 win.

  • A three-year starter, Zemaitis has 40 tackles (27 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, a team-high nine pass break-ups, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries this season. He ranks third in the Big Ten in passes defended.

    Zemaitis previously was named to the watch lists for the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy, presented to the nation's top defensive player. He has earned second-team All-Big Ten honors the past two years.

    A journalism major who is on schedule to graduate in December, Zemaitis broke Penn State and Big Ten records in 2003 with his 207 interception return yards on four picks. He led the Big Ten and was among the national leaders with 18 passes defended. He tied for fourth in the conference with his four interceptions.


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