Wide performance chasm exists between Robinson, other Penn State wide receivers
MINNEAPOLIS — A primary tenet of the defensive game plan Minnesota used to beat Penn State on Saturday was breathtakingly simple.
“We didn't let (Allen Robinson) beat us,” Golden Gophers acting coach Tracy Claeys said. “We took away one guy and controlled everybody else.”
Intuitive, yes. Also easier said than done. Ask the Nittany Lions' previous eight opponents, who had to be thinking something similar but still allowed Robinson to catch an average of 8.3 passes for 130.4 yards.
Even in the 24-10 loss at TCF Bank Stadium, Robinson managed seven receptions for 63 yards. Much of his production came in the fourth quarter with Penn State chasing a two-touchdown deficit.
Most worrisome for the Lions is that no other receiver stepped up despite Minnesota all but begging quarterback Christian Hackenberg to throw to the opposite side of Robinson.
The lack of a secondary receiving threat has been an issue most of the season. It has reached something of a culmination and threatens to plague Penn State in its final three games.
Wide receivers other than Robinson combined for one catch versus Minnesota. A closer examination reveals just how wide the chasm is between Robinson and the Lions' other receivers when it comes to production.
Saturday, Hackenberg targeted Robinson 11 times. Nine of those passes resulted in positive plays (two drew pass-interference penalties) and accounted for 83 yards.
“Obviously, he's a guy where you need to know where he's at at all times,” Gophers safety Brock Vereen said.
When Hackenberg targeted other receivers — Matt Zanellato, Brandon Felder and Richy Anderson — he was 1 for 8.
This despite Claeys maintaining that the Gophers double-teamed Robinson “almost every single time.”
The season receiver breakdown: Robinson has 73 catches for 1,106 yards (15.2 average) and six touchdowns.
Felder, Anderson, Zanellato, Geno Lewis and Alex Kenney have 56 catches for 578 yards (10.3 average) and four touchdowns.
Robinson's share of the receivers' production is 57 percent of the receptions, 66 percent of yards and 60 percent of touchdowns.
Numerous times this season, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has downplayed concern over the lack of a consistent, reliable option opposite Robinson.
Penn State players were not made available to comment after the Minnesota game.