Catch him if you can

Badgers must contain do-everything athlete Michael Robinson

The Michael Robinson act is hard enough to catch in a game. So packaging it into practice in preparation for Wisconsin's matchup with Penn State Saturday? A single scout teamer simply will not suffice.

"We've got a bunch of guys (impersonating him)," Wisconsin free safety Jim Leonhard said. "I don't think you really can make one guy. You'll wear down a scout guy."

When Wisconsin faced Penn State last year Robinson made his first career start at quarterback. It was a debut to remember: 22 of 43 passing for 379 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran nine times for 19 yards.

Robinson has been a star without a stable position in his time at Penn State. He started three games at quarterback and five at tailback last season and has also played slot and wide receiver throughout his time in Happy Valley. He finished 2003 with 892 passing yards, 396 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards.

"They put him all over the place," Leonhard said. "So we definitely have to know where he is all the time."

This season Robinson has started two games at receiver and one at quarterback in a gimmick formation that saw starting quarterback Zack Mills line up at split end.

Through three games this season Robinson has caught a career-high 15 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, has 17 rushing attempts for 102 yards and is 4-for-5 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. He served as a punt returner at times in his first two seasons but has thus far ceded those duties to Calvin Lowry this year.

"Your mind is always going," Robinson said of playing multiple positions. "It is not exactly tough but you just have to be focused. If you slip a little bit you can really mess up the whole thing."

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound athlete said, though, that he rarely suffers from confusion with his multiple responsibilities.

"Being a quarterback you pretty much have to know every position anyway," he said. "If I do line up wrong I know every route, I know every position and what route every position runs."

He learned that he would primarily play wide receiver this year during summer conditioning and took a team-first attitude towards the shift. He said would prefer to settle on one position now, and in his hopeful NFL future, but understands that teams may continue using him in multiple ways.

"God has blessed me with the athletic ability to be able to play a number positions. Hopefully that will help me in the future," he said. "I guess it just depends on team that drafted me because wherever they are willing to put me I'm willing to play."

Robinson is integral to Penn State's offensive attack not just through his production on the field but in his relationship with Nittany Lion signal caller Mills, who has thrown for 591 yards and four touchdowns this season but has also thrown six interceptions in the past two games.

"He has to forget about those things," Robinson said. "I know it is hard to do but you got to try to forget about the turnovers and just keep moving on. You can throw however many interceptions one week and come back and throw a game-winning touchdown and people forget about the interceptions."

Penn State's offense has put up big numbers in wins over Central Florida and Akron but struggled in a loss to Boston College. When things are going well, however, the Nittany Lions can mix run and pass in impressive fashion. Tailback Tony Hunt is averaging eight yards per carry (303 on 38 attempts) and reserve Austin Scott has 163 rushing yards on just 17 attempts.

"They are seeing things they didn't see last year," Robinson said of Hunt and Scott. "They are making the right cuts when they are supposed to and they are doing a great job blocking. I think our offensive line has stepped up pretty big this year."

Plenty of teams can line up and threaten a defense with talented running backs, quarterbacks and receivers. Robinson remains the x-factor.

"If we can't get the ball to Michael Robinson or he can't have some impact on the game, it is going to be a long afternoon for us," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said.

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