Robinson Sparks Penn State in Win Over Syracuse
Much of the talk around the opening weekend in college football was about an offensive playmaker, who was suspended for the first half on Saturday. However, it was Johnny Manziel as the topic of conversation, not Penn State junior wide receiver Allen Robinson. Johnny Football delivered, but so did Robinson.
Sparked by his return, the Nittany Lions (1-0) beat Syracuse (0-1) 23-17 at MetLife Stadium in the 2013 season opener.
Head coach Bill O’Brien declined comment after the game regarding why Robinson was not with the offense in the first half.
“Allen’s a great player,” said O’Brien after the game.. “I think he’s got a fantastic future. I love coaching the kid.”
Whatever the reason may be, Robinson made his impact felt and showed why he is a preseason Biletnikoff Award candidate.
In Robinson’s first possession, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg found him in the slot for a 25-yard reception. The next play appeared to be blown coverage as Robinson was wide open down the sidelines and scampered into the end zone for a 51 yard score.
The junior Robinson finished his day off with seven catches for 133 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s a great player and made a lot big plays for us today,” Hackenberg said after his first collegiate start. “The whole receiving core stepped up today and the tight ends as well.”
Hackenberg answered the other big question heading into Saturday, by trotting out on Penn State’s first offensive possession instead of junior college transfer, Tyler Ferguson.
“He’s got a tremendous future.” O’Brien said on behalf of Hackenberg. “We’ll keep learning from each other and he’s a fun guy to coach.”
After just two drives, Hackenberg exited for what appeared to be discomfort in his throwing arm. Ferguson came on for only three plays, which consisted of a 20 yard pass to tight end Matt Zanellato. After the completion, Ferguson lost the ball on a pump fake, giving the ball back to Syracuse around midfield.
“I told him (Ferguson) before the game he’d play the third series of the game,” said O’Brien.
Hackenberg came back after Syracuse scored the first three points of the afternoon in the second quarter, thwarting all thoughts of a quarterback competition which could resemble the Matt McGloin-Rob Bolden competition a few years back.
“I’m just really trying to immerse myself in the team and what the coaches are preaching every day,” Hackenberg said.
Finishing 22 for 31 with 273 yards and two touchdowns, Hackenberg seems to be the permanent starting quarterback this year despite his two interceptions.
“We got to come out ready to go,” O’Brien said. “We got to take our shots and if we make a mistake, then play complementary football. Everybody can see there’s talent on offense.”
Syracuse had its own quandary at quarterback entering Saturday. The Orange started Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who finished 17 of 38 with 193 yards through the air, while tossing two interceptions. Allen was picked off by sophomore defensive back Trevor Williams with under two minutes to go, a play that sealed the game for Penn State.
Syracuse committed three turnovers while Penn State committed four turnovers on a hot afternoon in North Jersey.
“We’re just trying to win the day,” O’Brien said. “We won today and I’m grateful for that and start getting ready for Eastern Michigan on Monday.”
Nittany Lions senior Zach Zwinak compiled 62 yards on 24 carries, and showed no effects of off-season wrist surgery.
Junior Bill Belton carried the ball six times and Ryan Keiser ran five yards on a fake field goal attempt in the second quarter.
“We’re Penn State. We got to run the football when we’re suppose to run the football, but obviously we’ve got to do a better job,” said the second-year head man, O’Brien.
Syracuse junior Jerome Smith was the games leading rusher gaining 72 yards on 16 carries, including two touchdowns in the third quarter that made it a 13-10 Penn State advantage.
After a rough start in 2012, Sam Ficken finished his sophomore season strong, and carried those efforts into the first game of this year.
Ficken converted field goal attempts of 36 and 35 yards respectively in the second quarter to give Penn State a 6-3 lead going into halftime.
“He deserves it, he’s worked extremely hard,” O’Brien said. “It’s only one game, but I think he should be proud the way he kicked the ball today for Penn State.”
He then converted a career long 46-yard attempt in the early stages of the fourth quarter to give Penn State a 16-10 lead.
Redshirt freshman receiver Geno Lewis caught the second Hackenberg touchdown on a 54-yard strike to push the Nittany Lions ahead of Syracuse 23-10.
After an interception returned inside the Penn State five yard line, Smith ran in the last points of the game making it 23-17.
A Nittany Lions defense featuring plenty of new faces was able to prevent the comeback attempt, giving possession back to the offense.
Penn State will kick off against Eastern Michigan next Saturday in their home opener. Tune into ComRadio for a live broadcast.
Ryan Stevens is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.