Stability Back In Punt Return Game

There is no wincing to see if Mason Robinson will hold onto a punt this season, which makes for a much more relaxing situation when it comes to Rutgers' punt returns. On a punt block team, that is often good enough, but Robinson added another dimension to Rutgers' punt block/return game when he brought a punt back for a 60-yard touchdown at South Florida.

Mason Robinson wasn't worried about finding a seam to burst through the middle of South Florida's punt coverage unit Wednesday during his 60-yard return for a touchdown in Rutgers' 28-27 loss.

Robinson, who has added of comfort and stability to the punt return game, was making sure he wasn't going to be distracted by the burning sensation of perspiration dribbling into his left eye.

After struggling to find a reliable punt returner the last few seasons – in Rutgers' case that means someone comfortable and capable of catching the ball to minimize yardage by bounces after the punt – Robinson is fitting in well.

He is averaging 9.6 yards per return, which is fourth in the Big East. Last season Mohamed Sanu was Rutgers' primary punt returner and averaged 3.9 yards per return.

"I think he's done a pretty good job fielding all the punts, from the beginning of the year," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "It was certainly a gutsy return into the face of a rush that paid big dividends for us."

For a team known for blocking punts, not returning them, Robinson's return for a score againsthe Bulls was a welcomed change, but he insists he didn't do anything special.

"It was weird, actually," said Robinson, a red-shirt junior. "When I looked up, the sweat from my forehead rolled into my eyes so I actually couldn't see out of my left eye when I first caught it. And I didn't feel like there was a lot of heat on me, but when I caught it and looked down, I saw there was a lot of people."

Turns out those people were all glad in South Florida green and white, and many of them assumed Robinson was going to signal for a fair catch.

Instead, when he caught and immediately sprinted up field, he already broke through the first set of defenders. He had one quick move to juke another would-be tackler and was on his way to Rutgers' first punt return for a score since Willie Foster scored on a 71-yard return against Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, 2005.

"Usually, a punt returner, once you get past the first wave it's usually the punter and somebody else who is straggling behind," Robinson said. "It feels great to get one."

Despite the quickness and speed Robinson displayed, he didn't get the sense he was moving very fast.

"I felt like I was moving slow," said Robinson, who added that isn't always how it feels. "I always run like there's a dog chasing me."

Robinson would have liked a chance for another big return when South Florida punted in the final minute of the fourth quarter, but he opted to fair catch Justin Brockhuase-Kann's 33-yard punt with 36 seconds left.

"He had good hang time on that one," Robinson said. "It wasn't like the previous ones. The hang time was real good."

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