After the Blue-White game in April, Silas Redd praised then-backup tailback Bill Belton.
“You guys only got a dose of what he can really do,” Redd said. “And that’s scary.”
Seven months later, Redd is gone and Zach Zwinak has more than double the rushing yards of Belton.
Penn State’s 34-9 win over Purdue on Saturday was Belton’s second consecutive game as a non-factor. He saw the field, but he never touched the football. Together, Zwinak and Michael Zordich ran for 169 yards. Zordich added a pair of touchdowns.
After the Purdue game, Belton hung his head slightly as the rest of his teammates cheered on their way to the locker room. The sophomore had a breakout game against Iowa despite uncertainty about the status of his ankle, which he injured in the season-opener against Ohio. Belton rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns against the Hawkeyes.
But Ohio State held him to just 2.6 yards per carry, and he barely played against the Boilermakers. With Nebraska just four days away, Belton is right back to where he started while recovering from his ankle injury.
Coach Bill O’Brien said Belton isn’t hurt, but he didn’t match up to Zwinak during practice last week.
“I just felt like you have to earn [the starting spot] out of practice,” O’Brien said. “I felt like Zwinak deserved to start. I was up front with Billy about that.”
Zwinak and Zordich held down Penn State’s ground game just fine on Saturday. Zwinak credited the offensive line’s ability to open holes he could slip through. Zwinak had 6.4 yards per carry Saturday, often dragging defenders a few extra yards after the initial contact.
Senior center Matt Stankiewitch, the lone returning starter on the offensive line from last season, said the offense had to make some adjustments to Purdue after the Boilermakers scored first.
“They were coming out with some new blitzes we didn’t see on film…” Stankiewitch said. “Matt and I and some of our running backs, as soon as we started picking that up, we started rolling. One play led to another and we started going down the field.”
Twice, Zordich finished those drives with six points. Zwinak said he didn’t mind that Zordich had Penn State’s two rushing touchdowns of the afternoon.
“We can't let Matt [McGloin] continue to QB sneak it into the endzone,” Zwinak said. “I'm happy to see [Zordich] score. It's his last chance to score in his time here. As long as our score keeps going up, it doesn't matter who's getting it.”
O’Brien added that he thinks Belton will be the starter again at some point, citing the sophomore’s fight and competitive drive.
Zordich said if Belton lets the Purdue game get to him, he will address that situation off the field.
“We would never want to see anybody on our team down after a win,” the fullback said. “If he’s down, we'll talk to him, and if he's not we'll just keep going. We all work together here, that's how this team has gotten to where it is right now. If we need to help him out, that's what we'll do.”