PSU-Eastern Michigan notebook: WR Robinson continues to impress
UNIVERSITY PARK – Allen Robinson had another huge receiving day for Penn State and spoke with the media for the first time since being suspended for the first half of the season opener against Syracuse.
“It was a learning experience, but it wasn’t a big deal at all,” Robinson said of that disciplinary action.
Robinson caught seven passes for 129 yards against Eastern Michigan, including a 45-yard TD and 43-yard gain. That’s coming on the heels of last week’s game against Syracuse in which he caught seven passes for 133 yards and a 51-yard score.
“I personally think that we have a good connection together,” Robinson said of himself and quarterback Christian Hackenberg, “but that goes for all the receivers.”
It’s unclear what led to Robinson’s suspension against Syracuse, but he said he used his time on the sideline to help his teammates.
“Just throughout the first half [I tried] to use my brains instead of my legs to help us out,” he said, adding he was talking to the players about what he saw on the field.
As soon as he came into that game, Robinson made a huge impact with two catches for 76 yards and a TD. He made two more big plays Saturday and is off to a terrific start to the season.
“I just try to make plays when my number’s called on,” Robinson said.
Three-headed running attack
Backup tailback Bill Belton had a big game Saturday with 108 yards and two TDs on only nine carries, plus a 51-yard scoring burst. He said his power running up the middle is something he learned from starter Zach Zwinak.
“We pick up a lot of things from each other,” Belton said. “One thing that I wanted to work on this year was being more physical and being more downhill.”
Zwinak carried only seven times but had 43 yards and two TDs, plus he had a big 20-yard run on a key third-and-24.
“We have three great running backs,” Zwinak said. “Everybody is going to split carries. Not one person is going to take them all. When it’s not your turn, you’re there for the guy, you’re cheering him on. As soon as he comes to the sideline you’re talking about what they’re seeing.”
Last but certainly not least, third-stringer Akeel Lynch, a redshirt freshman, had a great running back debut with 108 yards on 13 carries. He scored from 18 yards out late in the game.
“In the hotel before [the game] you always see yourself making big plays and visualize yourself before,” Lynch said. “I’m definitely excited just to get out there.”
Coach Bill O’Brien has raved about Lynch’s work ethic and attitude going back to last year, and now the running back is finally getting a chance to play.
“He’s a guy that has worked extremely hard to improve his game, so it was just great for us, as a staff, to watch him get in there,” O’Brien said. “He had a big smile on his face. I thought he ran hard. He’s got some improvement to make. He’s got to get his pads down, things like that, and finish runs a little bit better. He’s got a really good future here at Penn State.”
Starting linebacker Mike Hull didn’t play, and while O’Brien said he’s fine, defensive coordinator John Butler said, “I have no idea” when asked if Hull will play next week.
“When he’s healthy, he’ll be back on the field, ready to go,” Butler said. “Mike’s a great player, just had an unfortunate [injury], kind of got leg whipped last week in the pile and had an injury that kept him out today. We got to do what’s best for Mike’s long-term future, not just Penn State. When he’s back and ready to go, he’ll be back to probably being our best player.”
Backup safety Ryan Keiser left the game in the first half with an undisclosed injury. Tight end Kyle Carter (left arm) did play and had two catches for 16 yards.
Ficken sets kicking record
Sam Ficken set a school record by making his 14th consecutive field goal, a 39-yarder in the second quarter. He surpassed the previous mark set by Craig Fayak in 1992.
“I actually did not know until running into halftime,” Ficken said of the record. He went on to add, “It is really a great thing. There have been some great place-kickers come through here.”
It was a light recruiting visit weekend for Penn State with roughly a dozen prospects at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
The most highly rated players on hand were underclassmen, including a pair of juniors from Archbishop Wood in southeastern Pennsylvania. Ryan Bates is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound offensive tackle who already has other offers from colleges like Virginia, Pitt, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. His teammate, Jake Cooper, is a productive 6-2, 226-pound inside linebacker who has been linked to the Nittany Lions for some time but apparently has yet to receive a committable offer.
Both play positions that figure to be high on the Lions’ list for 2015, although outside linebacker might be a bigger need than inside, depending on how it is addressed in the next few months.
Exeter’s 6-5, 250-pound Michael Menet also was in the house. Menet might be the best offensive line prospect in the state in the sophomore class and already has been offered by Rutgers and Temple. Penn State followed suit on Saturday.
Qadree Ollison, a 6-1, 226-pound bruising running back from Buffalo had been expected to attend but decided not to do so late in the week. Ollison is scheduled to announce his college choice on Monday, and recruiting analysts believe he’ll announce for Penn State over Pitt, although the Lions already have two verbal pledges from running backs.
Ollison is from the same high school as Lion guard John Urschel, Canisius.
Eagles don’t put up much fight
Eastern Michigan came in as a big underdog, and despite some early success with short passes and running up the gut, its offense stalled the rest of the day.
“We did not score any points, and that is the biggest thing,” EMU coach Ron English said of the early drives. “In these games you have to score points, and we never put any pressure on the opponent because we did not score any points.”
The Eagles dropped the snap on a field goal try and later missed a field goal. Their only points came on a fumble recovery for a TD by linebacker Hunter Matt.
“We were real excited,” defensive back Mycal Swaim said after that score. “We were pumped up after that happened.”
Eastern Michigan, though, managed only 183 yards of total offense and only 11 first downs.