In piloting the second string offense to a Red team victory, Robison executed in ways that aren’t reflected in his stat line, drawing praise from coach Lane Kiffin.
“I thought Chris was poised out there, got things fixed in formations and stuff,” Kiffin said. “Did a good job.”
In competition with De’Andre Johnson for FAU’s starting QB spot, Robison completed 12 of 26 passes for 172 yards, throwing for one touchdown and one late interception.
Robison, a redshirt freshman who ran FAU’s scout team last year after transferring from Oklahoma, showed terrific arm strength, though he wasn’t always accurate. He also failed to locate a couple open receivers.
“His problem wasn’t turnovers, his problem was missing receivers,” Kiffin said.
Johnson threw one interception and had another overturned by a suspicious sideline infraction warning. (Kiffin admitted after the game that FAU intentionally gave the White team a couple of breaks to keep the game close). Safety Jalen Young also stripped the ball from Johnson and raced the other way.
The redshirt junior missed all but the first game of last season while recovering from surgery to remove blood clots from his right (throwing) arm.
While the velocity on Johnson’s passes increased dramatically as the spring progressed – and he showed plenty of zip on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jovon Durante in the back of the end zone – he struggled when throwing against the wind on Saturday. Three times Johnson had Willie Wright open behind the defense and he underthrew him badly on all three fluttering attempts.
Johnson completed 21 of 44 passes for 175 yards on the afternoon. Afterward he estimated that his arm strength is only about 80 percent of what it was before the blood clots.
“Now that spring is over I get time to rest it and build it back up,” Johnson said. “By the time fall camp gets here I’ll be 100 percent.”
The format of the spring game, which didn’t allow tackling of the quarterbacks, also limited one of Johnson’s best weapons – his legs.
Down when tagged rather then when “live” tackled, Johnson still managed to rush for 42 yards on 15 carries without the opportunity to break tackles.
Even after the blood clot surgery, Johnson isn’t concerned about the potential ill effects that could come from a tackle.
“I wish I was live,” Johnson said, smiling.
Kiffin said early in the spring that he expected the quarterback competition to carry over into the fall.
FAU entered fall camp last year with a quarterback battle that Daniel Parr, who sat out all of spring with a foot injury, ultimately won.
With the Owls’ offense not performing to his expectations, Kiffin bench the more physically gifted Parr in favor of Jason Driskel for the fourth game of the season. Driskel began the season as the third string quarterback, but after losing that first game at Buffalo, Driskel led the Owls to 10 consecutive wins, closing the season with a Conference USA championship and a Boca Raton Bowl title.
Driskel wasn’t the flashiest quarterback, but he put the other 10 offensive players in position to make plays – and they did. At times Robison showed some of that ability on Saturday.
Robison’s ability to master the offense while protecting the ball and managing the game will be one of the bigger storylines in the fall, as will Johnson’s expected increase in arm strength.
FAU could also elect to bring a graduate transfer to camp. Former Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins visited FAU this spring before announcing plans to transfer to Indiana.
The Owls also signed dual threat quarterback Cordel Littlejohn in February.