STATE COLLEGE – Allen Robinson entered his sophomore season as an unlikely choice to supplant a bulk of Penn State's school records.
After taking over the starting receiver role in the preseason, Robinson – the same guy who caught just three passes a year ago – set the school record for most receptions in a season with 73 catches. He needed just one catch to break OJ McDuffie and Bobby Engram's records – he caught 10.
Oh, and while he was at it, he produced one of the all-time top receiving performances in program history.
Robinson netted 197 receiving yards and caught three touchdowns to lead Penn State to a 45-22 victory Saturday over Indiana.
He's at his best right now, said his quarterback Matt McGloin, who also relished in his own record-breaking day. And he's got one big game left.
The Southfield, Mich. sophomore came three yards shy of the illustrious 200 plateau; however, his outing against the Hoosiers marked the fifth highest single-game performance of any Nittany Lion receiver – the best since Deon Butler's program-best 216 yards against Northwestern in 2006.
Robinson admitted the records weren't necessarily an aspiration for him but they mean a lot to his veteran teammates and Penn State alumni. He added that he did not hear from McDuffie or Engram, but former receiver Derek Moye congratulated him and said he wished he played under coach Bill O'Brien's pass-friendly offense.
I don't think it means a lot (to me), he said. Some of the guys to come through here, some of the great receivers – for them, it definitely means a lot.
To put the finishing touches on his remarkable 2012 résumé, the sophomore receiver will need another outstanding performance to add his name to more single-season records. At 983 yards through 11 games, Robinson is 102 shy of breaking Engram's 1995 mark for receiving yardage. He also needs two more scores to tie Engram's 1993 total of 13 touchdowns.
I was definitely coming into the season trying to make an impact, Robinson said. I wasn't sure what type of impact I was going to make on the games – especially with a lot of the guys leaving, I knew I had to step up.
Robinson made his first dent in the Hoosiers' depleted secondary in the first quarter on a nifty 26-yard touchdown catch. He turned around in the end zone and caught a McGloin pass with an Indiana defensive back Greg Heban in his face, giving the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game at 7-0.
McGloin saw a blitz, O'Brien said, and checked it right away. Robinson said the Scranton native knew it was man-to-man so he threw it up and let me make a play on the ball.
Rattling man coverages has become a common theme for McGloin's favorite target this season. Robinson said McGloin isn't hitting a target; instead relying on the receiver's vertical leap to make the play.
Really he's just throwing it up and expecting me to make a play.
McGloin added when he sees Robinson singled off, he's going to throw to him.
O'Brien credited Robinson's basketball skills. He said Robinson was bragging during Friday's team dinner about alley-oop dunks and all this stuff against one of Iowa State's basketball players during a high school playoff game.
He is just an excellent athlete and that translates well on the football field, O'Brien said. He's got hand-eye coordination, he could jump. He has the ability to lower his weight and change direction on routes.
Robinson's second touchdown came on the longest play from scrimmage on one of the shortest thrown passes of the season. McGloin dumped the ball to Robinson, who evaded the first defense and spun around Indiana safety Mark Murphy to break open a 53-yard score to put Penn State ahead 14-10 in the second quarter.
I was able to get the ball in a space and break a couple of tackles, he said. I had some good blocks from the o-lineman, the receivers and the tight ends. I was able to make a twirl and get down the field.
McGloin and Robinson built a special relationship during the summer that forged the chemistry that enabled the Nittany Lions' pass offense.
It was in the offseason, Robinson said. In the summer, me and Matt worked a lot. He was throwing me a lot of balls, running a lot of routes, making some chemistry.
His success does not come surprising to Robinson. Even with limited touches as a freshman, he set his goals for a would-be school-record 70 receptions before the season began.
Seventy catches was a goal, he said. I didn't know what this season would be like or if I was going to get it. Around 60-plus catches was what I thought I'd get coming into the season, and I was able to get it.
Heban elaborated on why it's so difficult to defend Robinson.
His routes in general and his speed. It is hard to prepare for that all week. When you have to come out here and face a guy like that with a quarterback like that, it's a hard combination to compete against.