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STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State's Josh Robinson is often the shortest guy on the field, a low-to-the-ground, maroon-and-white blur that's all muscle and churning legs.
Quarterback Dak Prescott might get the majority of the press for No. 1 Mississippi State, but the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Robinson completes one of the most productive backfields in the country.
It's a big reason the Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) continue to bulldoze their way through the league schedule. They host Arkansas (4-4, 0-4) on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
Robinson is leading the SEC with 887 rushing yards, 7.3 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns, smashing through opposing defenses on a weekly basis.
The barrel-chested junior is generously listed at 5-foot-9, yet boasted during the preseason he can bench press 385 pounds.
The way he runs, it's easy to believe him.
"I mean, you can call me a human bowling ball if you want," Robinson said. "You guys gave me that name, so I try to live up to it and fit it the best way I can."
Robinson had a career-high 198 yards rushing against Kentucky last weekend in a 45-31, constantly bouncing off would-be tacklers. Immediately after the game, he and his wide smile could be seen dancing behind Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen's interview on national television.
While the Bulldogs are a decent passing team, it's the running game that has been easily the team's most devastating weapon. Mississippi State ranks second in the SEC with 273.1 rushing yards per game. Robinson (126.7 yards) and the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Prescott (94.9) account for more than 80 percent of that production.
Sometimes they move the ball with read-option plays between Prescott and Robinson. Sometimes plays are designed specifically for one or the other.
Either way, the defense must account for both. And if they get fooled on an exchange or get caught out of position, it's almost always a big gain for the Bulldogs.
"I think it has been pretty good for us," Mullen said. "We want to make people defend all 11 guys on the field. When the running back is putting up big numbers and hitting explosive plays he draws a lot of attention. That takes a lot of the pressure and attention off of Prescott, which will allow him to make bigger plays."
Robinson spent his first two years at Mississippi State behind LaDarius Perkins on the depth chart. He had some good moments, with 335 yards rushing as a freshman and 459 more as a sophomore.
But he was also occasionally chided by Mullen for a lack of consistent focus. Prescott said there were times in the huddle during those seasons when the excitable Robinson would have to be calmed down.
The coach said there's nothing wrong with having a funny, demonstrative personality on the team. There just has to be a serious side, too.
"There is a big difference with being funny and being a clown," Mullen said. "Guys that are funny know when to be serious and guys that are clowns are clowns all the time. He is funny now. He used to be a clown. That makes you appreciate him even more because you know when the time comes he is going to focus and get his job done while still having that great personality that lifts everyone up around him."
This year, Robinson moved into the starting role and immediately excelled. He's run for at least 100 yards four times this season, including three times in SEC games and twice against nationally-ranked competition.
Robinson is hardly surprised. He and Prescott are Louisiana natives and Robinson said earlier this season the connection between the two was instant.
"We already knew we were going to work well together," Robinson said. "So we just got to keep a positive mindset and work forward. That's the 'boot' and the Louisiana chemistry. We just have to keep doing what we are doing and we will be all right."
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