ROBINSON BOLTS WAY TO BIG 12 PLAYER OF WEEK
BOULDER - University of Colorado return specialist Stephone Robinson was named the Big 12's Special Teams Player of the Week Monday morning for his outstanding efforts in the Buffaloes' 30-21 win over Kansas this past Saturday.
Robinson - the third Buff to garner Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season - had 98 return yards (65 punt, 33 kickoff) in CU's victory, as the redshirt freshman had his best punt return go for a 48-yard touchdown. In what was his first career touchdown and the longest return of his young career, the Denver native (Mullen High School) gave CU a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter, as the Buffs never looked back en route to their fourth consecutive win over the Jayhawks.
"I guess it's a pretty big honor," Robinson noted Monday before practice. "It kind of caught me off guard; I really wasn't excepting it. (The touchdown) was a big play for the team that helped us win, and I got Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week, so that's good."
Joining defensive end Alex Ligon and kicker Mason Crosby on the list of previous conference weekly honorees, Robinson had a touchdown that was the first punt return taken back for a score since Jeremy Bloom did so in the 2002 Big 12 Championship. On the year, the 5-9, 185-pounder has 28 punt returns for 251 yards (9.0 average). He also boasts a 17.6-yard average on kick returns, having totaled 141 yards on eight attempts.
Making Robinson's feat even more impressive is the fact that CU has shied away from setting up blocking schemes on punt returns this season. Focusing mostly on blocking the kick with a heavy rush - which the Buffs have successfully accomplished twice in nine games - Robinson has been forced to mostly make plays on his own. Having drawn credit from head coach Gary Barnett for his consistent effort under such heavy pressure, Robinson may be the most overlooked special teamer for CU this year.
"Stephone has really done a good job for us," Barnett said. "All we ask him to do is catch the ball, and he has really done that well in some tough situations. He has been very consistent and he even gets us 9-10 yards each return; so, that's 9-10 yards closer we are to scoring. I have been very impressed with him."
When asked if he would like to see punt return coach Brian Cabral set up a full-out return more often than pressuring the punter, Robinson said it made no difference to him as long as the special teams unit put CU in a position to win.
"Those (blocks) are just as big as a big punt return," Robinson affirmed. "If (Cabral) feels that we can still get big returns and blocked kicks, I think we'll still keep doing the same things we have been."
Having kept in contact with each other since he left CU, Robinson called Bloom following the KU game to report the good news. According to Robinson, the former CU return guru and speedster was happy to hear that his one-time understudy hit it big, while Bloom also offered a little joking criticism. "He said it was about time," Robinson noted. "He hates that I never (call for a) fair catch, but other than that he said I am doing pretty well."
Crosby Moves On: Sophomore Mason Crosby was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award Monday, an honor given to the nation's top placekicker each season. On the year, Crosby has connected on 13-of-17 field goals and been good on 21 of his 23 PATs. He currently owns the longest collegiate field goal in 2004, as he booted a 60-yarder in CU's Oct. 16 win over Iowa State. The Texas native (Georgetown) has kicked four field goals of 50 yards or longer this year, and holds CU records for most 50-plus kicks in a season and career.
Practice/Injury Updates: Senior tight end Quinn Sypniewski, who has been sidelined the last six games with a broken ankle, said his injury is getting better, but that his return to action this season remains up in the air. "The crack in the bone is just starting to fill up. ... Barring a miracle (this week), maybe I can play at Nebraska."
Should Sypniewski be unable to return before the year is over, he would consider petitioning for a sixth-year medical hardship. After suffering a toe injury that kept him out in 2003, the NCAA granted him another year of eligibility this season. Unfortunately, his campaign was cut short after playing in only three games.
"I'm trying to get in contact with as many people as I can," he added. "I don't really know (what will happen) right now. Keeping as many doors open as possible is always the best option."