BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Allen Robinson landed violently and quickly ripped off his helmet. Even the Indiana fans went silent.
Robinson had just spent three quarters torturing the Hoosiers, but he was the one in pain near the end of the third quarter.
Penn State’s star receiver was having another marvelous game against Indiana on Saturday when he leaped high in the air, looking to haul in a fade pass for what would have been his third touchdown of the day.
He landed just out of bounds, crashing hard on his lower back. Robinson laid on the field for a few minutes before walking off under his own power.
He returned to the game, but it was too late for the Nittany Lions to rally.
Penn State was that close to tying the game at 21-21. But the Lions kicked a field goal instead, and a few short minutes later, Indiana was up 42-17.
Robinson, whose injury was not believed to be serious, was the main reason Penn State was in the game at all.
The junior finished with a career-high 12 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. That brings his totals against the Hoosiers to a jaw-dropping 22 catches, 370 yards and five scores over two games.
“He’s a really good player. You can’t say enough about him,” Lions coach Bill O’Brien said. “He plays hard, he plays hurt. On offense, he’s our best player.”
The Lions got Mike Hull back in the game but played without starting wideout Brandon Felder.
Hull, who has been battling a sprained knee all season, made his first start since the season-opener against Syracuse.
“He’s playing hurt,” O’Brien said. “He’s got the thing wrapped up and a knee brace on over it. He’s playing tough. And he’ll continue to play hurt. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
“For the last five weeks I’ve been kind of frustrated not being out there with the guys,” said Hull, who finished with 10 tackles, tied for the team lead.
Felder, meanwhile, suffered a minor ankle injury in practice this week. He made the trip but did not suit up for the game.
In his place, Eugene Lewis made his second career start. The WVC alum finished the day with a career-high six catches for 35 yards. His three grabs in the first half alone doubled his total from the first four weeks combined.
“The younger guys stepped up,” quarterback Christian Hackenberg said. “Geno had a great game.”
Lewis also showed his inexperience, however, fumbling away one of his three kickoff returns on the day with the Lions already trailing 35-17. Indiana recovered and scored on the next play to remove any doubt about the outcome.
Though Hull returned, the Lions weren’t at full strength at linebacker. Converted safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong remained in the starting lineup in place of Nyeem Wartman, who played sparingly.
“Nyeem’s been banged up in practice with a shoulder and been kind of in-and-out,” O’Brien said. “Nyeem’s fine, he’s a good player. Obeng’s been banged up, too, so it’s kind of which one’s healthier than the other.”
Berwick grad makes the cut
In a span of just a few weeks, Zach Ladonis went from a regular Penn State student to playing football for the Lions.
The Berwick alum showed up for the team’s annual tryouts on Sept. 17. And Ladonis, a two-year starter at wide receiver and defensive end for the Bulldogs, caught the eye of Lions’ coaches as a kick snapper.
By Saturday, he was a key part of Penn State’s special teams.
Ladonis had a busy debut, handling all four of Penn State’s snaps on punts against the Hoosiers.
Penn State had started the season using linebacker Glenn Carson on punt snaps but was looking to give him a break, even trying freshman cornerback Anthony Smith in that role recently. Ladonis took over on Saturday, wearing No. 61.
Ladonis was a football and basketball standout for the Dawgs, coming up with a pick-six against Dallas in last year’s District 2 playoffs. He was selected to play in the UNICO senior all-star game last year.
The 6-foot-2 Nescopeck native caught 13 passes for 127 yards for Berwick in 2012.
Snapping became a topic of debate early on Saturday when Ty Howle fired back a low line drive on a 31-yard field goal attempt. Alex Butterworth, filling in at holder for the injured Keiser, had little chance to corral it and Sam Ficken was forced to run back and fall on it for a whopping loss of 31 yards.
“I thought Zach did a nice job, a pretty nice job,” O’Brien said. “We need to snap better on the field goals, but Ty Howle’s a fantastic kid. A tough, tough dude and he’ll snap better this week.”