Penn State fell back on its backups at running back Saturday in its 34-7 win over Navy.
With top running backs Bill Belton and Derek Day inactive, coach Bill O’Brien turned to Michael Zordich and Curtis Dukes to step into the halfback position.
Zach Zwinak had no carries and it looks as though O’Brien will redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch after not using him in the first three games of the season.
Zordich’s 11 carries for 50 yards are both the career highs for the senior fullback. Typically, he serves as a lead blocker and short-yardage option.
Dukes had one less yard than Zordich and the same number of many carries. Dukes didn’t play against Ohio and had 10 carries for 31 yards against Virginia.
Even quarterback Matt McGloin got into the ground game Saturday, scrambling six times for a net of 18 yards.
O’Brien said both Belton and Day were day-to-day. Belton is recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in the Ohio game, while Day separated his shoulder against Virginia in what O’Brien described as “very painful injury.”
Day to remember
Offense: WR Allen Robinson
Robinson had five catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He can’t seem to escape the football these days, as he caught one touchdown pass Saturday that wasn’t even intended for him.
Defense: LB Mike Hull
Hull, a second-string linebacker, stumbled upon a fumbled snap on Penn State’s own 26-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He picked the ball up, and a ran it 74 yards into the Midshipmen’s endzone for six points. It was Penn State’s first fumble return for a touchdown since 2009, when Navorro Bowman picked one up for 91 yards against Eastern Illinois.
Day to forget
Offense: K Sam Ficken
Ficken’s four extra points — he missed one — equal his point total from his nightmare game against Virginia, in which he had a field goal and an extra point. O’Brien didn’t send him onto the field on a Penn State 4th and goal from Navy’s 8-yard line. There wasn’t a field goal attempted for either side in the game.
Defense: Saf. Malcolm Willis
Over the past two games, the defense has had a lot of fun with forcing turnovers. Willis hasn’t been involved in any of Penn State’s eight takeaways this season. He had only two assisted tackles and a solo tackle Saturday — the least of Penn State’s starting defensive backs.
Did you notice?
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill lined up as a fullback for a few plays in the first quarter. He did not get any carries.
After the game, O’Brien wouldn’t confirm if Jordan Hill was the mystery running back that he had hinted about the week before the game. But he did confirm Hill “is part of that mystery running back committee.”
Wide receiver Allen Robinson is on pace to catch 96 passes for 1,288 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those numbers would more than double Justin Brown’s yard’s last season, nearly triple his receptions, and sextuple his touchdowns.
Paul Jones on his first collegiate reception: “As the ball was coming to me, I kind of got nervous because it was coming right at me. Then after I caught it, my body just went numb and stopped thinking. I just reacted to everything.”