September 22, 2012 at 9:37 PM
Michael Zordich and Zach Zwinak were the only Penn State tailbacks to carry the ball and accounted for 169 rushing yards Saturday.
While that sentence likely would have baffled Penn State fans two months ago, it was the case against Temple as Bill Belton, Derek Day and Curtis Dukes were all kept out of the backfield with injuries.
Belton was held out of his third straight game with an ankle injury, while Day missed his second straight contest with a shoulder malady. Dukes, though he played on special teams, did not line up in the backfield and coach Bill O'Brien said the tailback's thigh was bothering him.
"We were going to play [Dukes] a little bit," O'Brien said. "But as the game went on, we felt like Zordich and Zwinak were running it pretty good, give Dukes another week here to heal."
Zordich actually got injured himself as he came off the field limping after making a catch in the third quarter. The senior did not return and the team said the injury was a bruised left knee.
O'Brien didn't make it seem like Zordich's injury was too serious in his postgame press conference.
"He'll probably spit on it and be all right," O'Brien said.
When Zordich was on the field, he was effective. The 6-foot-1, 236-pound power back accumulated 75 rushing yards on 15 carries before leaving and also made four receptions for another 39 yards.
Zordich ran the ball a total of 15 times for 30 yards last season, but now has 125 rushing yards on 26 carries in his last two games.
"He's been up in the coach's ears for the past four years and just hasn’t gotten the opportunities," senior linebacker Michael Mauti said. "I know the kind of talent he has, a lot of people around here know, he just hasn't gotten an opportunity to show it on the field."
However, when Zordich went down and the Nittany Lions needed to run out the clock, it was Zwinak's number that got called. The redshirt sophomore ran for 57 yards on 11 carries in the fourth quarter and had a total of 94 rushing yards — the most of any Penn State tailback this season.
Though neither of them were scored by a running back, the Lions did pick up their first two rushing touchdowns of the season, both in the form of Matt McGloin sneaks near the goal line. In total, the team ran for 173 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry.
O'Brien mentioned Belton is getting closer to returning, but said Penn State will continue to use a "running back by committee" as the season progresses.
"These guys have run the football well, and so we'll have a rotation there," O'Brien said. "Hopefully, one of them will get hot, and that's what we'll do."