On a fourth-and-goal in crunch time against Northwestern, Kyle Carter and Allen Robinson ran opposing crossing routes in the endzone.
Two defenders picked up Carter, leaving just one player covering Robinson. Robinson made a sliding catch for a touchdown, which was a big step in the Nittany Lions’ comeback victory.
This is just one example of how Carter and Robinson — who have become Matt McGloin’s two favorite targets — function in unison to create openings for each other in opposing defenses.
“[Robinson] had a great start to the season, so people were going to start doubling him,” Carter said. “And I mean, in order for him to get his numbers up, I got to do something and the other receivers have to do something, so he can get less doubles. We work together on that.”
In the first half of the season, Robinson and Carter have accounted for more than half of the Lions’ 1,511 receiving yards.
Robinson has surfaced as Penn State’s star wideout this season. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in receptions per game with 6.8 and with 41 catches for 524 yards and eight touchdowns, he is also first on the team in every major receiving statistical category.
The Orchard Lake, Mich. native said having teammates like Carter, tight end Matt Lehman and wide receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder make it tough for a defense to key in on him.
“I think a lot of people have stepped up. Like Illinois, Lehman stepped up. Like last weekend, Brandon Felder had some key catches,” Robinson said. “So I think just as a defense, they have to worry about a lot of guys. [It’s] not just me, Kyle, Lehman or Brandon, they have to worry about that…. So I think we have a pretty good arsenal of receivers for Matt [McGloin] to go to.”
Though some Penn State defensive players have been left off a few mid-season award watch lists, both Robinson and Carter have garnered some national recognition. Robinson has been named to the Biletnikoff Award (nation’s best receiver) watch list, while Carter is on the watch list for the Mackey Award, which is handed out each season to the country’s best tight end.
Also a second-year player, Carter had no collegiate experience entering the season, but it’d be difficult to tell, judging by the way he has played. Carter is second on the team behind Robinson in catches (23) and yards (279).
The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman is listed as a tight end, and typically lines up on Penn State’s line. But in coach Bill O’Brien’s offense, there are times in which Carter will be lined up as a receiver, and he’s even made some catches running routes out of the backfield.
“I think that’s something that we knew coming into the season that Kyle was going to be versatile, for him just to be able to live up to how well he’s playing,” Robinson said. “I think he’s really helped the team out a lot with that.”
Carter said lining up all over the field was something he also did in high school. The Bear, Del. product added it doesn’t matter where he’s positioned, he just wants to be useful.
O’Brien also lined up his tight ends in multiple positions when he was the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. And not only does Carter have the versatility physically to do different things for the offense, but O’Brien said he understands schemes well.
“He’s one of those football players that you only have to tell once,” O’Brien said. “There’s a difference between being smart in class and smart on the field. Some guys don’t have both. Some guys are very bright students but not as smart on the field or vice versa, and this guy has both.”