UNIVERSITY PARK — As he ran toward the north end zone Saturday at Beaver Stadium, time slowed down for Allen Robinson.
Quarterback Matt McGloin fired a pass that glanced off the hands of freshman wideout Trevor Williams.
The deflection sent the ball wobbling end over end up into a high arc — mirroring a passing play that Ohio got lucky on and scored a touchdown with two weeks earlier.
Robinson followed the ball with his eyes, secured the catch and helped seal Penn State’s 34-7 win over Navy.
Later, Williams would joke with Robinson that the tip was intentional, as Robinson was in perfect position to catch a touchdown pass.
Indeed, Robinson was in the right place at the right time. And while the score may have been pure luck, his two other touchdowns in addition to his 136 receiving yards came as no coincidence.
Losing its three most experienced receivers to unexpected circumstances hasn’t seemed to hamper the Penn State offense, which has found a go-to target in Robinson.
And suddenly, the second-youngest Penn State wideout, who turned 19 three weeks ago, is the Big Ten conference’s leading receiver.
“Allen’s a tremendous talent,” McGloin said. “He had a very, very good day today.
“Hopefully he continues to progress. He’s only a sophomore, so he’s got a bright future.”
Robinson continuously burned Navy defensive backs, who at times got caught looking into the Penn State backfield on Saturday. When they did so, Robinson made them pay.
In the second quarter, the speedy Robinson ran past Navy cornerback Parrish Gaines, hauled in a quick throw from McGloin, cut inside and outran the rest of the Midshipmen for a 45-yard score.
Before the half wrapped up, Robinson showed off his leaping ability.
On first-and-goal from the two yard line, McGloin was flushed from the pocket. Rolling to his right, the quarterback lofted a pass off his back foot toward the end zone. Robinson went up and caught it at his highest point to give Penn State a 20-0 lead.
The sophomore wideout said he wasn’t doing anything special during plays. Rather, Robinson was taking advantage of positioning and matchups before the snap.
“Coach O’Brien does a great job of game-planning and we saw some things that they did defensively and we were just able to capitalize on them,” Robinson said. “There were a few other receivers open also and Matt connected with them, too. So I think it’s just all about game-planning and good route combinations called.”
Robinson’s emergence comes in the wake of senior wideout Justin Brown’s transfer to Oklahoma and Devon Smith and Shawney Kersey leaving the team for personal reasons.
Kersey’s departure came in the middle of this week, as Penn State prepared to play the Midshipmen.
But Robinson wasn’t the only young Penn State receiver to see action Saturday.
While Robinson led the pack, youngsters Brandon Moseby-Felder and Williams also hauled in passes. Sophomore Alex Kenney and redshirt freshman Matt Zanellato also joined the wide receiver rotation.
“Those guys, all those receivers had a really good week of practice,” O’Brien said. “They came ready to work. They’re coached very well by Stan Hixon. And really, again it comes under that phrase of ‘next man up.’”
Through three games, Robinson has proven himself capable of stepping up.
He leads the Big Ten with 24 catches for 322 yards, and is second with four touchdowns.
“A lot of times, he’s singled up and that’s part of the read,” O’Brien said. “It’s not like we’re just saying, ‘Hey, throw to Allen Robinson no matter what.’ We never do that. Allen knows that and Matt knows that. But he’s part of the read and he’s done a really good job to this point of catching the football and making some plays.”
Robinson’s not ready to take all the credit, however.
“We can all just lean on each other,” Robinson said. “We have a relatively young receiving corps, so I think it’s just us leaning on each other. If we don’t know something, we can ask each other and just sit down and try to bond together and be stronger as a group.”
Travis Johnson can be reached at 231-4629. Follow him on Twitter @traviswjohnson_