Robinson, Penn State on roll

Fifth-year senior quarterback has Nittany Lions one win away from Big Ten championship

National notebook

November 19, 2005|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

He's not being mentioned for the Heisman Trophy and barely has received attention for any of the awards that go to the nation's best quarterbacks. For the first five weeks of the 2005 season, Penn State's Michael Robinson wasn't even considered the best offensive player on his own team.

In fact, when freshman wide receiver Derrick Williams broke his arm during a last-second loss against Michigan on Oct. 15 in Ann Arbor, most figured that the Nittany Lions would have to win with their defense. No. 5 Penn State hasn't lost since, in large part because of the way its fifth-year senior quarterback has played.

Calling Robinson "one of the best football players in the country," legendary Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno said earlier this week that he wasn't surprised by what has happened after a mostly disappointing career.

"The thing about Michael Robinson that people don't appreciate is the fact he's been a running back, he's been a wide-out, he's been a quarterback, I've used him everywhere I've needed him," said Paterno. "He never hesitated to step in there, and he's never failed to do a good job."

In much the way Bryan Randall led Virginia Tech to a surprising season and a BCS bid last year, Robinson has exceeded expectations at Penn State this year. Today, the 9-1 Nittany Lions go for their first Big Ten title since 1994 when they play at Michigan State.

"It would definitely mean a lot," Robinson said.

It would certainly mean a wonderful culmination of a career filled with more twists, turns and bumps than the mountain roads leading into State College. Robinson came to Penn State as a running quarterback playing behind Zack Mills, then wound up playing both wide receiver and quarterback last year.

Robinson could always make big plays, evidenced by the 53-yard run and 74-yard pass he made as a sophomore. But has always been erratic in his passing, even this year when his 52 percent completion average and his touchdown-to-interception ratio (15-9) leave him 49th in passing efficiency. He is still more of a runner, as he has demonstrated with 10 touchdowns on the ground this season.

When asked recently if he considered himself a Heisman Trophy candidate, Robinson told The New York Times, "Does the Heisman really go to a guy whose team can't win without him? I wasn't the quarterback last year and look at our record [4-7]. I'm the quarterback now. Look at our record. One could make a case."

Penn State receiver Deon Butler made his case for Robinson without mentioning his name.

"He's just got to be a leader," said Butler, when asked for the attributes of a Heisman candidate. "He has to be the guy stepping up and making plays. To me he doesn't have to have the best statistics, but if the game is on the line, he can lead his team and do so many things."

Kind words on Snyder

Though he has always been portrayed as a curmudgeon - or worse - in the media, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has long been respected by those in his own profession, particularly by those who cut their teeth by working for Snyder in building the Wildcats from a Big 12 laughingstock into a perennial power.

"He taught us how to coach," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who worked for Snyder before leaving when his brother Bob got the head coaching job at Oklahoma. "His legacy will always be a relentless work ethic and unquestioning loyalty. And it was the greatest turnaround in college football history."

Snyder, who announced his retirement earlier this week, took over at Kansas State in 1988 when the Wildcats were the only major college program in the country with 500 losses. By 1993, Kansas State would start a run of 11 straight bowl appearances and would win the Big 12 in 2003.

The Wildcats have had two straight losing seasons.

"I think the time is right ... because first and foremost, it's best for the university," said Snyder, who'll take a 135-68-1 record into today's game against Missouri. "I think that because of the nature of the profession that we are in, it becomes a difficult thing to follow a great deal of success."

Trophy case solved

Turns out the two men charged with stealing Florida State's championship trophies were Florida graduates. Unfortunately for John Piowaty and Jason Rojas, what years ago might have been thought of as a prank by fans of a rival school now goes down as burglary and grand theft of the Waterford crystal trophies, valued at $30,000 each.

"I always felt like we would [get them back] because what are you going to do with them?" said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

There is no word on the third trophy that has been missing for a number of years. That's the one Florida State fans thought their favorite team would win, only to be taken away by one inexplicable loss or another.

don.markus@baltsun.com

The Associated Press and other news organizations contributed to this article.

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