Auburn’s coaching staff looked past Jovon Robinson’s name on the depth chart early this season.
They won’t make the same mistake in 2016.
Robinson capped off a wildly successful second half of the year by earning Birmingham Bowl MVP honors in a 31-10 win over his hometown team Memphis. He tied a season-high with 27 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown.
During Auburn’s post-game press conference, the outspoken junior college transfer was all smiles.
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“It is definitely a blessing,” Robinson said. “I have been able to be influenced by a lot of people along my journey. Today’s game was special because it was personal. I know a lot of guys that play for Memphis. They came into the game as a tough opponent and a rivalry for me.”
Robinson spent the early part of the season on the bench nursing a leg injury he suffered in the first half of Auburn’s season-opener against Louisville.
The coaching staff went weeks without updating Robinson’s status until they needed him to step in for an injured Peyton Barber in late October.
Robinson finished the season with 639 yards on 5.46 yards per carry with three touchdowns. He had more than 90 yards in five of Auburn's six games and crossed the 100-yard mark twice.
“I think my performance over the last half of the season is a testament to my work ethic during the spring and summer,” Robinson said. “I experienced a slight injury that hindered me, but I had the support of my teammates. I pushed through adversity. I was able to be successful.”
One of the standout aspects of Robinson’s success was his ability to get into the second level of the defense.
In previewing the Birmingham Bowl, ESPN analyst Anthony Becht said Robinson’s “explosiveness” jumped out on film.
The junior college transfer accounted for a third of Auburn’s 18 runs of 20 yards or more. Peyton Barber, who had 120 more carries than Robinson, had three runs of 20 yards or more.
In the Birmingham Bowl, Robinson settled in after Peyton Barber handled the majority of carries on Auburn’s opening drive.
Robinson carried the ball five times for 23 yards on the Tigers’ second possession — 10-plays, 70-yards — that resulted in a touchdown.
Auburn rotated its offensive personnel in the backfield throughout the game, but Robinson was the Tigers’ most effective back.
Late in the first half, he carried the ball for positive yardage on five straight plays to get the offense across midfield.
Robinson put the game out of reach on a 4-yard touchdown run with 12:57 to go in the fourth quarter.
“The run that stood out to me is the one from the three yard line when he kind of got stuck but kept moving his feet and the offensive line drove him into the endzone,” Malzahn said. “That was one of the huge plays in the game.”
Malzahn said Robinson’s toughness on the perimeter and ability to fight for “tough yards” was an integral part of Auburn’s offensive success.
“I’m proud of him,” Malzahn said.