By the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game, Nebraska was resorting to whatever it could do to stop Gelen Robinson.
Holding, for instance.
The Cornhuskers had to on their second-to-last drive — they rallied on their last one, beating Purdue 25-24 in Ross-Ade Stadium — when center Cole Conrad grabbed at Robinson as he raced around the edge. Had Conrad not, Robinson’s numbers might have been even more ridiculous. Even so, the Boilermaker defensive tackle finished with nine tackles, 5.5 for a loss and two sacks.
“He’s just a beast down there,” linebacker Markus Bailey said. “He’s a freaking physical specimen. It’s just amazing some of the things he can do. He’s just a workhorse down there. So many different abilities, and it was great he had that kind of game for us. Getting in the backfield, it makes it easier on the defense when you get the offense off-schedule like that. I’m really thankful he’s on our team and making plays like that.”
The five-and-a-half TFLs ranks fifth-most in a single game in Purdue history, behind the record held by Jeff Zgonina and Rob Ninkovich (seven). Saturday night, Robinson regularly wrecked Nebraska’s offense. His first sack came on third down, after he’d had two tackles for loss earlier in the same drive, to force a punt. His second sack forced a fumble, which Nebraska recovered. Another TFL came at the goal line, helping to hold the Cornhuskers to a field goal and to preserve a Purdue lead in the third quarter.
Robinson has only four games left in his career — perhaps five — and the dwindling timeline is serving as motivation.
“(I’m) realizing that my time at Purdue is coming to an end,” he said. “As a senior, I had to step up and work together as a D-line and become a bigger role. I think I did a good job of that tonight even though we didn’t come out with the win. We worked together and that’s what got me a lot of the TFLs, working with the other D-linemen. I can’t take all the credit, I have to give it to Lorenzo (Neal), Eddy (Wilson) and Austin (Larkin) for doing their job and putting me in a good position.”
This season, Robinson has had to show off his versatility. The 6-foot-1, 290-pounder started his career as a defensive end at Purdue — after he had signed as a linebacker — then shifted inside during the spring of his final year. But it’s worked well.
“I think Gelen Robinson is an outstanding football player,” Coach Jeff Brohm said. “He’s played very well all year long. He’s strong. He’s physical. He has some quickness. He’s a force on the defensive line. I think he did a great job for us today. He’s a senior leader and you want to try to do everything you can to win for a guy like that. But h’s doing everything he can to help us.”
The performance might have been a long time coming for Robinson. Through the years, his coaches — and he’s had four different position coaches in four seasons and three primary coordinators — have all implored him to take another step forward, to keep the motor up, to give slightly more effort.
And Robinson did all those vs. Nebraska, a highlight reel game on part of what has been a solid season.
“(But) when you lose you can’t be satisfied,” he said. “I’m not satisfied. The team isn’t with the way we played. It feels good in the moment to make those plays for your team, but at the same time, you’ve got to know that there’s more work to do and a lot more work to do on my part and the defense’s part.”
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