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Former backup Robinson develops into leader for Oklahoma State

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Moments after he calls a goal line play during Oklahoma State's practice, quarterback Zac Robinson knows he can count on left guard David Koenig to provide a little levity.

"What's the play again?" the senior will ask Robinson, knowing exactly what the Cowboys are about to run.

It's little moments like those exchanges with Koenig that have helped Robinson settle in as the leader of Oklahoma State's offense, the No. 8-ranked unit in the land with a 484-yard average.

"They know a lot about me and what will make me laugh, what I will do in certain situations," said Robinson, a sophomore who will make his 11th career start Monday against Indiana (7-5) in the Insight Bowl. "It's been a lot of fun."

After entering the season as the overshadowed backup to junior Bobby Reid, Robinson has turned in the most productive season in Oklahoma State (6-6) history. His 3,299 yards of total offense are a school record, and he essentially cleared the mark in only 10 games after totaling 12 yards in brief backup duty in the season opener at Georgia.

That was the way he expected his season to go - maybe 10 plays per game as a wide receiver or in a package specially designed for him, like the empty backfield set he operated against Oklahoma in last season's Bedlam game.

Then Reid was injured in the second game of the season, and Robinson was impressive enough in relief to win the job outright. He made it through a rocky first start in a loss at Troy, and eventually coach Mike Gundy saw him becoming a true leader.

"Four or five games ago, I think he kind of took the team on his shoulders and it became his football team as the quarterback of the offense," said Gundy, a former Oklahoma State quarterback.

"It was a difficult transition early in the season. You don't make a change in that position, much less make a change at that position when you have a returning starter who's thrown for (2,200) yards ... and had a lot of preseason hype."

Robinson had to get used to being the focal point of the offense instead of an occasional contributor. He had filled in admirably when Reid was injured at Texas A&M last season, but otherwise was used more often as a receiver than a quarterback.

"My freshman year, when I got into games I was pretty enthusiastic and just pretty fired up just to be playing," Robinson said. "I've kind of learned to balance that out a little bit with knowing when to stay stuff and knowing when to just let everybody think about it themselves."

Even having taken over for a more experienced player in his freshman year, Gundy said he didn't think he could provide much advice for Robinson.

"The comparisons aren't really fair because when I went through it, there was an article in the paper on it the next day, and now when you make a transition like that everybody talks about it for we're going on three months now," Gundy said. "And they talk about it on the Internet and everybody has a comment, and most people don't know what's really going on."

It was a column about Oklahoma State's quarterback change that set off Gundy's now-famous tirade after a 49-45 win against Texas Tech in September. Gundy was defending Reid, who he still believes ended up with a bigger burden than Robinson's adjustment to being the new starter.

"Because of all the success that Bobby had last year late in the year, everywhere he went people saw him as the starting quarterback in preseason, Unitas (Award) candidate and all those categories he fell into," Gundy said. "And then all of a sudden it's changed. I think that's more of a difficult transition."

Robinson has excelled in his new role, breaking the school's single game passing record and also becoming the Cowboys' top rushing quarterback in decades - all after beginning the season without garnering much attention at all.

"I've kind of been just riding the wave my whole career. I just kept playing hard and never knew what was going to happen," Robinson said. "I could kind of feel it myself, and I was wondering if anybody else was noticing it too."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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