STATE COLLEGE — The extraordinary has become routine for Allen Robinson.
Another circus catch, just a few yards away from the same corner of his now-famous grab against Michigan, highlighted another huge day for the Penn State wide receiver.
“Me and Allen have been around each other since we first got here,” defensive back Adrian Amos said. “So I see stuff like that all the time. When he doesn’t make the catch, that’s when I’m shocked.”
Robinson racked up 11 catches for 165 yards in the win over Illinois on Saturday, pushing him above 2,000 yards for his career and 1,000 yards for the season.
He now sits fifth on the Lions’ all-time receptions list (146) and fourth in career receiving yardage (2,085). He needs just 42 more yards to break the single-season yardage mark held by Bobby Engram and 12 more catches to break his own single-season receptions record he set last year.
Robinson himself wasn’t eager to talk up his big numbers after the game, but others certainly did.
“Nothing really surprises me with Allen,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s got a great poise about him, he doesn’t get frustrated, he plays every play. He is very competitive in practice, which I think really helps him be the player that he is.
“He never takes a practice off, he practices every day. He practices with a sore hamstring, he practices with bumps and bruises and I think that means a lot to our team. When he goes out on game day and plays well, that doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Starting lineup shakeup
Not surprisingly, there were a few changes to open the game for Penn State in the wake of the 63-14 loss to Ohio State. Tackle Donovan Smith, defensive end Deion Barnes, defensive tackle Kyle Baublitz and linebacker Nyeem Wartman all were on the sideline for the first drive.
Adam Gress flipped from right tackle to left tackle while Garry Gilliam started on the right side.
On defense, Anthony Zettel started in place of Barnes for the second time in three weeks. Austin Johnson was in for Baublitz. Ben Kline made his first career start at outside linebacker after dealing with nagging shoulder issues all year.
O’Brien had said during the week that some jobs would be on the line during practice this week, and by the time warm-ups rolled around, it was apparent that changes were made.
Smith, Barnes and Baublitz all saw the field on the second drive of the game and rotated in and out. Wartman appeared for the Lions on special teams.
New look for Zwinak
Though he lost his starting job to Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak was still on the Lions’ radar on Saturday. With some new equipment.
For the first time since arriving at Penn State, the big running back was wearing gloves in an attempt to help with his ongoing fumbling problems.
Zwinak had lost three fumbles in 2013 and eight total in the past two seasons, with turnovers against Michigan and Ohio State leading to him being benched for the rest of those games.
He appeared for the first time on Saturday in the second quarter, sporting the gloves as well as a cautious approach to holding the ball, carrying it very high and very tight after each handoff. Zwinak finished with six carries for 25 yards.
“He and I had a long talk this week and he asked me about gloves,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s more about the individual guy. He wanted to try that, and I thought he went in there and ran tough. Billy was the hot back today. If Zach had gone in there and broken a bunch of runs, maybe we would have stuck with Zach, but Billy was the hot guy.
“Zach’s ready to go and I thought he ran it in there pretty hard today.”
As it was last week against Ohio State, there were no surprises in warm-ups, with every player who was expected to dress in uniform.
Safety Ryan Keiser continues to wear a cast on his left hand, which he broke in September, requiring surgery. It didn’t stop him from making the game-sealing interception in overtime.
Christian Hackenberg, who had his throwing shoulder dinged up last week, played Saturday without any additional wrap or protection. O’Brien had said earlier in the week that his quarterback wouldn’t need to take any extra precautions.
Freshman wideout Richy Anderson was back in uniform a week after not making the trip to Columbus for academic reasons. He had two catches for 18 yards.