September 29, 2012 at 7:13 PM
One step, Matt Lehman was securing a touchdown. The next, he got his bell rung.
Lehman found a soft spot in Illinois' defense on a seam route and his catch in the endzone put Penn State ahead by three touchdowns in the second quarter. However, Lehman was hit hard by safety Earnest Thomas after he scored. Thomas made helmet-to-helmet contact on the hit and was not only flagged for the play, but was ejected from the game.
Lehman was down on the field for a little bit after the violent hit, but returned to the game. He said his vision was a little blurry, but he recovered and ended the day as Penn State's leading receiver with five grabs for 70 yards and his touchdown.
The Newport native said he had no hard feelings about the hit after the game.
"I really don't know. I didn't see it, I don't hold anything against the kid," Lehman said.
While Lehman was making plays, Penn State's star receiver, Allen Robinson, had a quiet afternoon. Robinson didn't have a touchdown for the first game all season and was held to 35 yards on three catches.
"People are really starting to hone in on Allen," Lehman said. "If he has a lot of people covering him or double coverage or whatever, it's going to leave other guys open. Today, I just was fortunate to be open on a lot of stuff and make the plays."
The 6-foot-6 junior has become a reliable option for quarterback Matt McGloin and his 137 receiving yards are the third most on the team this season. Coach Bill O'Brien said he's noticed improvement in Lehman throughout the year.
"He had a decent game, he's getting better every week, which is good to see," O'Brien said. "He has to play with a better pad level. He's a big, tall kid. But he catches the ball well and understands our offense better each week."