Dallas Colleges: Josh Robinson

Watch: SEC plays of the week

November, 2, 2014
Quite an interesting weekend in the SEC, with four games decided by one score and a surprising result in Jacksonville. There were plenty of great plays to make it all happen -- too many to list here -- but here are our picks for the top six plays involving SEC teams in Week 10.

Carson's long journey to 5 yards
Five-yard touchdown runs aren't usually the type you find on a highlight reel, but Texas A&M running back Tra Carson found a way to make his special by changing direction. Carson went right and when it was clear nothing was there, he went left, evaded a few tackles and dove in for one of the more impressive 5-yard runs we've seen.

Cooper does it all
It's always fun when a trick play works out well. South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper, who put in strong work in the Gamecocks' loss to Tennessee (233 receiving yards, 23 rushing yards, 30 passing yards and four total touchdowns) showed off his passing accuracy on this 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds.

Hurd with a spin move
Tennessee put together quite an effort to come from behind and beat South Carolina on the road. Part of the comeback was powered by this 21-yard screen pass from Joshua Dobbs to Jalen Hurd, who made some nifty moves to avoid tackles and get into the end zone.

Big arm, big catch for Marshall, Coates
Auburn picked up a huge win over Ole Miss on Saturday night, and there were several dazzling plays, but perhaps none quite as spectacular as this one. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall scrambled away from pressure before heaving a 57-yard bomb (which in actuality traveled about 65 yards in the air) to Sammie Coates for a touchdown to square the game at 14-14 late in the first half.

A free play for six
Speedy Noil is no stranger to nice catches, as seen in this space earlier this season. This particular one was both difficult and clutch in timing. On fourth-and-1, the Aggies went for it, drew Louisiana-Monroe offside and quarterback Kyle Allen took advantage of the free play by heaving it deep to Noil, who was well defended but still used one hand to haul in the deflection for a 39-yard touchdown catch.

The "Bowling Ball" can catch, too
Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson has made a name for himself with his tackle-breaking ability and big-time production this season. On Saturday against Arkansas, Robinson showed off his receiving ability with an impressive one-handed catch from quarterback Dak Prescott for 47 yards.
Texas A&M’s defense worked diligently throughout the early portion of its season to shed its 2013 reputation, one that lingered until the unit stepped on the field Aug. 28 at South Carolina and could prove it actually was a different group with a different attitude and a new outlook.

Until recently, the Aggies had performed admirably on that side of the ball, posting much more respectable numbers than they had a season ago. Things indeed looked different.

[+] EnlargeDe'Runnya Wilson
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsThe Texas A&M defense got pushed around Saturday against Mississippi State.
Then Saturday happened: Mississippi State ran over the Aggies to the tune of 48 points and 559 total yards, Texas A&M’s worst statistical defensive performance of the season.

"[We weren't] playing smart defense," linebacker Justin Bass said. "Just staying in your gap and having good eye control; it's as simple as that."

The question is, was Saturday and aberration or the beginning of a familiar trend?

Mississippi State is 5-0 for a reason. The Bulldogs, as Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin noted afterward, were efficient and had a solid game plan. Quarterback Dak Prescott’s ability to seamlessly run Dan Mullen’s spread-option offense -- with a dizzying array of read-option, designed quarterback draws and more -- is difficult for any defense to handle, and as much has been proven this season.

Add in running back Josh Robinson or the stable of other backs the Bulldogs have, as well as talented receivers and a big offensive line, and it becomes understandable why Mississippi State averages 541.8 offensive yards per game (12th in the nation).

However, the Aggies struggled in key areas Saturday that are points of emphasis for Sumlin and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, namely third downs. The Aggies allowed Mississippi State to convert five of its first six third-down attempts, and that doesn’t include the first third down of the game, which was a holding penalty on cornerback De'Vante Harris that extended a Mississippi State drive that could have ended in a three-and-out. On the next play, Robinson broke free for a 49-yard run that led to an eventual touchdown.

The third-down struggles appear to be a blip on the radar for Texas A&M, as the Aggies have otherwise been successful in that area. Going into Saturday’s game, the Aggies allowed third-down conversions at a 33.7 percent clip, good for 39th nationally. And the Aggies started the second half defensively getting back-to-back third-down stops, but Texas A&M’s offense wasn’t able to capitalize with points either time, leaving the Aggies trailing 28-10. They didn’t allow a third-down conversion in the second half.

The biggest area of concern Saturday was one that was an absolute headache in 2013: run defense. The Aggies allowed a whopping 280 rushing yards to the Bulldogs. The reasons varied from missed tackles to poor angles taken in pursuit, or simply a matter of Mississippi State’s offensive line winning the battle up front.

It was the second consecutive week the Aggies gave up a healthy dose of rushing yards. The previous week, Texas A&M allowed 285 rushing yards to Arkansas. Even if a 51-yard fake punt against A&M’s special teams is taken out of the equation, the Aggies have allowed an average of 257 rushing yards per game in the last two weeks against SEC opponents.

That’s a far cry from 124.75 rushing yards per game allowed in the first four games of the season before the Aggies faced the Razorbacks.

On Saturday, it didn’t help that the Aggies also struggled to cover the Bulldogs in the passing game. Prescott attacked the Texas A&M secondary, going 20-of-26 for 268 yards. The Aggies struggled to defend Prescott’s back-shoulder fade passes, which ate up chunks of yardage time after time.

Despite the poor performance Saturday and an up-and-down showing against Arkansas, the Aggies still have been better overall statistically than in 2013 (it’s hard not to be), when they were last in the SEC and in the bottom 30 nationally in most major defensive categories. Their ability to finish strong against the Razorbacks and get key stops in the second half and overtime appeared to be a sign of progress.

Saturday against Mississippi State was a different story. With two highly ranked opponents lined up for the next two weeks (No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 7 Alabama), the Aggies will have to bounce back from their showing in Starkville if they want to prove they are capable of being an effective SEC defense.

"We have to really correct some stuff that we've been letting slide so far," Bass said. "It is a wake-up call."

If the Aggies plan to be a real contender in the SEC West moving forward, they have to be much better defensively than they were Saturday.

Bulldogs show they deserve contender status

October, 4, 2014

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- As the closing seconds dripped off Mississippi State’s two mammoth end zone scoreboards, a still packed Davis Wade Stadium erupted, and cowbells clanged.

And clanged.

Bulldogs players, still trying to grasp their dominating 48-31 win over No. 6 Texas A&M, rushed the student section and started what should be one heck of a party in Starkville.

Coach Dan Mullen carried his daughter.

“You never see this,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “Usually, games like this, the students are gone.”

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesMississippi State QB Dak Prescott did damage with his legs against Texas A&M, rushing for three TDs.
By games like this, Stricklin meant blowouts. But this one, which at times felt like Mississippi State was playing an early-season gimmie game, was so different because of the school lined up opposite the Bulldogs. That team projected to have some sort of College Football Playoff run was trounced by the Bulldogs before halftime, when its quarterback, Heisman Trophy candidate Kenny Hill, had directed A&M’s high-powered offense to just 10 points.

Those fans stayed because they wanted to celebrate with a team that has now beaten Top-10 opponents in back-to-back games for the first time ever. They wanted to celebrate with a team that proved it deserves to be given SEC contender status.

It deserves some playoff talk, too.

“I’m proud of our guys, I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of the whole university,” said Mullen, who got choked up during his postgame news conference. “It is hard to win in the SEC.”

Mullen couldn’t help getting emotional. He just watched what most of the country watched: Utter dominance from a group of two- and three-star high school misfits.

With the college football universe descending on the state of Mississippi this weekend (No. 3 Alabama played at No. 11 Ole Miss), 12th-ranked Mississippi State proved to be a great opening act for the Magnolia State. It makes you wonder if the Bulldogs should have been the main event and if this team might be the best of a wild bunch in the SEC West.

“Pretty big statement -- Mississippi STATEment,” quarterback Dak Prescott said of the win.

It didn’t matter that starting center Dillon Day was out due to suspension and top wide receiver Jameon Lewis was down with a leg injury. You hardly noticed their absences. Outside of a beautiful opening drive, the Aggies didn’t look fit to be on the same field as the Bulldogs.

“It said that we can compete in the SEC West,” said running back Josh Robinson, who had a game-high 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “We can be one of the better teams.”

The Aggies certainly have their issues -- including catching the football -- but you can’t take anything away from Mississippi State’s performance. The offense was incredibly efficient, went 6-for-6 in the red zone and piled on 559 yards of offense.

Prescott was a surgeon with his passing and threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 77 yards and three scores.

The Bulldogs' defense frustrated Hill all day. It was aggressive; the Bulldogs dialed up the pressure to take the deep pass away and registered four sacks. The Aggies piled up 526 yards and 31 points, but this game was never in doubt after the Bulldogs went up three scores in the second quarter.

We wondered if Mississippi State, which has historically flamed out on the big stage, could win the big game when the spotlight was on. The Bulldogs have now won two of those games and should head into next week’s showdown with Auburn as a Top-10 opponent.

“We’re moving up the charts, so people know our names, but we’re not worried about them knowing it,” running back Brandon Holloway.

Oh, they’ll know it now.

The praise will be coming, but do the Bulldogs care?

“Recognition is awesome, but you kind of like being under the radar, honestly,” said offensive lineman Ben Beckwith, who filled in for Day at center. “I like going [into games] thinking the other teams are looking over us. You would think they wouldn’t be.”

People will be talking about the Bulldogs a little more now, and they should. When the defense is in sync with the offense like it was Saturday, this is as complete a team as there is in the SEC, and it looks like it’s only getting better.

“We don’t care what kind of attention we get," Robinson said. "Because at the end of the year, we should have a No. 1 next to our name."

SEC position rankings: Running backs

June, 10, 2014
Today, we continue our look at each position in the SEC by checking out quite the loaded group: Running backs.

SEC games are won and lost in the trenches, but the league has always poked its chest out from the running back position.

This season is no different, as the league is once again loaded here:

Alabama's TJ Yeldon
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJunior T.J. Yeldon leads an Alabama running back corps that might be the best in the nation.
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide might have the nation’s best backfield. T.J. Yeldon enters the 2014 season with 2,343 career rushing yards and 26 touchdowns, while sophomore Derrick Henry, who might be the most talented back on the roster, excels as a bruiser and a cruiser with his pounding frame and elite speed. Junior Kenyan Drake provides a nice change-of-pace with his elusiveness, and the Tide will grind away with mammoth Jalston Fowler.

2. Georgia: When healthy, Todd Gurley is arguably the country’s best running back. He has that rare combination of size, speed and explosion that make him a terror for defenses. Even with nagging injuries, Gurley has 2,374 career rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. Fellow junior Keith Marshall proved to be a great complement to Gurley with his explosiveness, but is coming off a devastating knee injury. Expect freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to get chances, along with youngsters Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman.

3. South Carolina: Junior Mike Davis has the skill to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. He can pound away with his strength and break the big run. He has nearly 1,500 career yards and the talent to make this his last year in college. There isn’t a lot of drop off with Brandon Wilds, either. Injuries have been an issue for him, but when he’s on the field, he usually outworks opponents. He’s also a good blocker and a receiving threat. Shon Carson has shown flashes, but has to put it all together. Keep an eye on David Williams, who could be the back of the future.

4. Arkansas: The Razorbacks didn’t do a lot of good things on offense last season, but Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams presented a formidable duo for opposing defenses. Together, they rushed for 1,985 yards and eight touchdowns. The second number has to increase this season, but if the line improves, these two should produce plenty of headaches this fall. Korliss Marshall only played in eight games last year, but people around the program think he’s the biggest home run threat at running back.

5. Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel is gone, but the backfield should be fine by committee. Tra Carson has what it takes to be a bellcow back with his blend of power, explosion and elusiveness. The Aggies could have a solid one-two-punch with Carson and Trey Williams, who might be the most gifted of A&M’s backs. Brandon Williams and James White should get carries too. White looks like the back of the future and is an every-down pounder, while Brandon Williams might be the fastest of the bunch.

6. Auburn: What Tre Mason did last year was nothing short of impressive, and the system he ran will only benefit the guys after him. Seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant both rushed for more than 600 yards last season and each had six touchdowns. Artis-Payne could carry the load, while Grant is used as more of the speed back. Redshirt freshman Peyton Barber could get some carries, but keep an eye on true freshman Racean Thomas, who could really challenge Artis-Payne.

7. LSU: Jeremy Hill might be gone, but Terrence Magee could start for a handful of SEC squads. He rushed for 626 yards and eight touchdowns last season and stole some carries from Hill here and there throughout the season. He isn’t easy to take down and is more elusive than Hill was. But he’ll certainly be pushed by freshman Leonard Fournette, who was the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class. Senior Kenny Hilliard returns with more than 1,000 career rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

8. Florida: This might the Gators’ deepest position. Sophomore Kelvin Taylor started to get more comfortable last season and is faster and more agile right now. He’s trying to be more of an every-down back and carry the load, but will get plenty of help from Mack Brown and Matt Jones. Brown has really turned things around in the last year, while Jones should be 100 percent after knee surgery this spring. The wild card could be freshman Brandon Powell, who could be a real threat in the passing game.

[+] EnlargeRussell Hansbrough
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesRussell Hansbrough could be on the verge of a breakout season for Missouri.
9. Missouri: The Tigers might have a gem in junior Russell Hansbrough. He isn’t the biggest back, but he blends power and speed and churned out 6.0 yards per carry last season. Hansbrough is primed for a breakout year and will have a good complement in Marcus Murphy, who is an extremely explosive player at running back and in the return game. Redshirt sophomore Morgan Steward, who is bigger than Mizzou’s typical backs, but might be the fastest of the bunch.

10. Ole Miss: The Rebels have a solid duo to work with in juniors I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. Both registered more than 500 yards last season and were neck-and-neck for most of the spring. Expect an attack by committee where Walton has more of the flash and Mathers uses more power. Jordan Wilkins is a really physical back who is more of a grinder than the other two. There isn’t a workhorse, but all these guys fit what Hugh Freeze wants to do on offense.

11. Mississippi State: Another team with a potentially deadly duo headlining its backfield. Josh Robinson was third on the team last season with 459 yards, but averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He packs a punch and can break the big plays. Nick Griffin had a great spring, but has dealt with multiple ACL injuries. Having him healthy for the first time is huge. There’s excitement about Brandon Holloway moving to running back, and youngsters Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams could get chances this fall.

12. Kentucky: The Wildcats have plenty of questions on offense, but there’s hope at running back. Sophomore Jojo Kemp led the team in rushing last season (482), but will battle Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard, who might be able to do a little more with his athleticism and speed. Josh Clemons is back after sitting out two seasons with injuries, and freshmen Mikel Horton and Stanley Williams will give Kentucky good depth.

13. Tennessee: Senior Marlin Lane has a ton of experience and will relied on even more with Rajion Neal gone, but inconsistency has always been something that has hurt Lane. He’s yet to hit 700 yards in a season, but he’s shown flashes his entire career. Freshman Jalen Hurd, who has great size and athleticism, is being viewed as the real deal in Knoxville and will have very opportunity to grab a good amount of carries this fall after enrolling early. Him taking the starting job wouldn't surprise anyone.

14. Vanderbilt: New coach Derek Mason was pleased with where his running backs were coming out of the spring. Junior Brian Kimbrow, who has a ton of wiggle and speed, is stronger, which should help him between the tackles. The Commodores could have a future star in redshirt freshman Ralph Webb and veteran Jerron Seymour, who led Vandy with 716 rushing yards, is back, giving Vandy some good depth to start the season.

Rapid Reaction: Central Florida 17, SMU 7

December, 4, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Central Florida scored a touchdown midway through the third quarter to take control and held on for the 17-7 victory to win the Conference USA championship game.

Some thoughts:

* SMU is likely headed to the Armed Forces Bowl, which will be played at Ford Stadium in Dallas because of the renovation work at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.

* I can't remember a first half this season, especially in C-USA, being that short (about 75 minutes). The teams had seven combined drives and five of them went for more than 10 plays, helping to chew up the clock. The half ended on a UCF field goal to make it 10-0.

* Injuries have hurt SMU this season, and they hurt again Saturday. Sterling Moore's left knee, which has given him trouble for much of the year, was banged up again in the second quarter. Youri Yenga was also hurt in the first half on what appeared to be a leg injury as he missed a tackle on UCF QB Jeff Godfrey and then went down. With just over nine minutes left in the game, cornerback Bennie Thomas needed attention and was taken to the sidelines.

* Godfrey sure can run. He's only a freshman, but the quarterback can make things happen with his feet. There were numerous times when he made the first tackler miss, allowing for positive yardage. He's still raw and a few times ran when he had open receivers on secondary routes, but you can tell he's got a chance to really grow in the UCF offense.

* The UCF crowd was doing the wave while the Knights were on offense early in the third quarter. Just thought I'd mention it, because I don't get why you'd do the wave with your team on offense in a close game early in the second half. But they did seem to enjoy it.

* UCF RB Latavius Murray was the MVP of the game with 115 total yards, 94 on the ground. He had both touchdowns.

* SMU QB Kyle Padron had an up-and-down day, not unlike his sophomore season. The best example was late in the third quarter. Padron converted a fourth down with a laser on an out route to Keenan Holman for 12 yards. But on the next play, he threw the ball to the wrong shoulder (inside instead of outside) to Aldrick Robinson and it was intercepted. That basically ended SMU's hopes with the Mustangs down 17-0 at that point. Padron did have some passes dropped and he tried to make things happen with his feet when he was flushed out of the pocket. But the Mustangs couldn't make enough plays. He had a couple of overthrows on deep balls as well (one to Robinson, who was open in the end zone, in the first half). Padron was 18-of-34 passing for 220 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

* UCF cornerback Josh Robinson, who had the INT, also broke up several deep balls and had an excellent game in coverage.

* UCF WRs Kamar Aiken and Brian Watters (among others) took advantage of Moore's absence for big plays across the middle. The SMU secondary had trouble making tackles and the UCF wide receivers were physical and made some nice runs after catches.

* RB Zach Line got away for one long run, a 23-yard scamper in the first half. Line, who has averaged 108. 1 yards per game to lead C-USA, rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries.

* LB Taylor Reed played well on defense for the Mustangs. Before the fourth quarter was barely a minute old, he had 10 tackles, including eight solos, and two sacks.

* WR Darius Johnson, who did not play last week due to a knee injury, had nine catches for 105 yards to lead all Mustangs receivers.

* WR Cole Beasley had a few catches, and one was particularly impressive. He was turned around, reached up and snagged the ball and then kept control while he hit the ground as the Mustangs drove deep into UCF territory in the fourth quarter.

* WR Aldrick Robinson's touchdown marked the seventh straight game in which he's scored a TD.

* LB Justin Smart got his first sack of the 2010 season and did a nice job in place of Yenga. He got into the backfield several times and was in on a gaggle of tackles.