Maryland safety Matt Robinson wasn't dressed for last week's game at Temple after his second shoulder injury in less than a year.
His presence, though, was never in question.
He made the trip up to Philadelphia, sharing wisdom with understudy Sean Davis. He celebrated the Terrapins' first road victory since late in the 2010 season. In between, he howled in protest along with injured linebacker Kenny Tate when officials called a personal foul on safety Eric Franklin.
"It was such a crucial part of the game," the redshirt sophomore said of his reaction to the fourth-quarter flag. "That's why we were more animated."
That, and simply trying to remain a part of the game after a long hiatus.
Robinson will finally return Saturday when Maryland (2-0) plays host to Connecticut (1-1) at Byrd Stadium. He's missed 11 straight games for the Terps. A shoulder injury last September brought a premature end to his season. At the time, he had 36 tackles in three weeks.
It wasn't the only thing to go wrong for Maryland's defense, but there was a noticeable difference when the Terps were forced to turn to freshmen for the remainder of the fall to fill Robinson's spot.
His return was supposed to come two weeks ago. But a fluky practice injury to his other shoulder — one coach Randy Edsall still can't believe turned out to be serious after scouring multiple video angles — delayed his season debut.
"I think it will be huge for Matt to come back," linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. "We definitely miss his intelligence and his play. Matt's a different type of football player, kind of in the Kenny Tate category where he's like a coach on the field, and he's very smart and he knows where to be."
His sagacity is part of why Edsall, who does not usually take injured players on trips, opted to bring Robinson for last week's 36-27 triumph over Temple. Freshman Sean Davis started the past two games, with Robinson providing a sounding board for a player thrust into extensive playing time far earlier than anyone would have guessed.
During practices, Robinson would observe coverages and then provide feedback when Davis came to the sideline. After dinner last Friday, the two watched film together to help Davis prepare for his first road start the next afternoon. Edsall's desired "big brother effect" was achieved.
"The night before the game, I'm in the playbook asking him questions, which made it real easy not to have to run down the hall and find someone who knows it," Davis said. "I had him right there."
There was an upshot for Robinson as well. His last game was nearly a full year ago. He knew he would likely be back this week, and indeed is listed atop the depth chart.
A place on the bus, in meetings, on the sideline and in the locker room ensured a connectedness before his season debut.
"I felt more in tune with the team," Robinson said. "When you're hurt, you don't travel. You sit out and it almost feels like you're a little isolated at times. I wanted to still feel a part of it and still feel like if I see something on the field I think they can do a little better, try to help them. That was my main thing."
Robinson saw no similarities in how the shoulder injuries unfolded. It still irks him that a bad break in practice cost him two games. The chance to scrimmage early in camp means he isn't nearly 12 months removed from hitting and tackling.
It's still a long time to be removed from a meaningful snap.
"I really long for that opportunity to get back out there," Robinson said. "You just have to deal with it. I'm hoping to make a big impact."
That much was clear when he gave an official an earful last week after Franklin's penalty. He wasn't yet physically ready to play, but there were no hints his mind and emotions weren't sharp despite the layoff.
"That's what you need," Edsall said. "We missed that when Matt was out. He's eager and hungry and ready to go. Let's hope the good Lord keeps him healthy the rest of the season."
NOTES: Fullback Tyler Cierski (concussion) will miss Saturday's game. Senior Jeff Hernandez will handle the fullback duties. Edsall said freshman Kenneth Goins would be used only as an emergency option.
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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