With three experienced running backs in front of them, the plan for Sacramento State true freshman Jordan Robinson and community college transfer Brandon Kellermann was to listen, learn and be patient.
That was before senior Ezekiel Graham (ankle), sophomore De'Jon Coleman (neck) and redshirt freshman Demetrius Warren (shoulder) were sidelined by injuries entering Saturday's game against Northern Colorado at Hornet Stadium.
Obscure before, Robinson and Kellermann were thrust into leading roles in Sac State's 37-21 homecoming win over the Bears.
They didn't disappoint.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Robinson rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and also had three catches for 62 yards in his first college game.
The 6-0, 230-pound Kellermann, a Bella Vista High School graduate who played linebacker the last two seasons at Sierra College, added 72 rushing yards on 15 carries.
That helped propel the Hornets (3-3, 2-0) to their first 2-0 start since joining the Big Sky Conference 18 years ago.
Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron was 26 of 39 for 312 yards and three touchdowns and the Hornets had 513 total yards, including 201 rushing yards. Defensively, the Hornets held Northern Colorado (1-5, 0-2) to 46 rushing yards.
Robinson used his raw speed his 53-yard reception in the second quarter tied for longest play of the season for the Hornets while Kellermann used his power inside the tackles to keep the chains moving in the second half.
"I think they handled it pretty well," said Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck of their co-debuts. "Brandon came in the second half and gave us a different look and really attacked things. I think they complemented each other very nicely and took advantage of their opportunities."
Graham and Warren both were injured in last week's 31-3 win over Weber State. Coleman was injured in the season opening 24-0 loss to San Jose State, and though he has made progress in rehabilitation this week, he couldn't get medically cleared for the game.
Kellermann has had injury issues of his own. He had a cast removed from his right hand earlier in the week that was protecting a fractured finger.
"Me and Jordan both knew the weight of the situation with all the other running backs being out," he said. "I was hungry and ready to come play and seize the moment. The holes were there. The linemen were doing a great job."
Robinson, from Chino Hills, said he was so nervous, he couldn't sleep last night. But once the game started, he was ready to go.
"I thought it was cool," Robinson said of scoring his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter, running behind a block by Kellermann. "We're way different. Brandon is a banger. I can take a few hits, but not too much."
It didn't hurt that Safron is a good runner in his own right. He added 33 yards on 12 carries.
"He's a really mobile quarterback, a speed guy," said Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins Jr. "When you have a mobile quarterback, you can spread the field and tonight (with Kellermann) they were able to run up the gut."
Sac State will play Northern Arizona next Saturday at Hornet Stadium. The Lumberjacks (3-2, 1-1) lost 36-7 to Montana State on Saturday.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.