In the ever-changing Penn State backfield, it was former starter Zach Zwinak who stood out on Saturday. Overall the Nittany Lions played a poor game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and suffered their third conference road game this season, falling 24-10 to the Gophers. In spite of the loss, Zwinak was a bright spot for the Nittany Lions with a great game on the ground.
Zwiank, who broke onto the scene last season with 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns, has been plagued by turnovers this season. He recently lost the starting job to Bill Belton and had received just 17 carries in Penn State’s last three games.
Things changed quickly on Saturday in Minnesota. Zwinak was suddenly thrust back into action when Belton fumbled on the first play of the game. That miscue set the stage for Zwinak to get an opportunity to show he can still be an effective back.
Zwinak carried the ball 26 times and racked up 150 yards. He also scored his first touchdown since September 21, a game in which he found the end zone three times against Kent State. More importantly, he did not turn the ball over, something that had become an issue over the past few weeks.
Zwinak’s performance at Minnesota is even more impressive considering the fact that he had been non-existent in the Penn State backfield recently, being overshadowed by Belton.
Belton, the man who had took the starting job with fantastic play recently, finished this game with just seven carries. His early fumble clearly caused head coach Bill O’Brien to rethink using the junior running back, who also had a huge fumble on the goal line late in last week’s game against Illinois.
Zwinak’s performance at Minnesota proves that he’s still capable of carrying the load out of the Penn State backfield. If he and Belton could can both become more consistent, the Nittany Lions will have a very dangerous one-two punch at the running back position.
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