The Penn State Nittany Lions showed against the Purdue Boilermakers that the run game is the key to the offense. The Nittany Lions rushed for a total of 289 yards and put up five rushing touchdowns. With solid games from Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch, Penn State now has to figure out how to share the carries among all three talented backs. While that may be difficult, it’s a good problem to have.
The run game has been a bit of a mystery lately, with different backs taking turns in the lead role. While Zwinak was the main guy to start the season, Belton had wrestled the starting job from him in recent weeks. However, both have been plagued by fumbling problems.
While there were still fumbles in the game against Purdue, the backfield still did it’s job. All three backs were effective. With some added consistency, they could give the Nittany Lions one of the most dangerous backfields in the conference.
For the second-straight game, Zwinak led the team in both carries and yards. After rushing for 150 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota, he ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue. Belton also pitched in nicely by rushing for 81 yards and a score. Lynch, who hadn’t seen action in three games after being bothered by an injury, added 44 yards.n
For the season, Belton leads the team in carries and yards. He’s ran the ball 154 times for 796 yards and five touchdowns. He’s shown much improvement from a year ago when he struggled with injury and consistency and failed to get anything going.
Zwinak, who led the team in rushing a season ago, was off to a good start before fumbles caused him to receive just 17 carries in the three games leading up to the contest at Minnesota. However, after two good games in a row, he now has 725 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season.
He’s a tough runner who isn’t afraid to fight for the extra yards. That style of running is a great compliment to Belton’s quicker, playmaking ability.
As if having two quality backs isn’t enough, redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch has also shown flashes of greatness this year. He’s rushed for 349 yards in just six games and twice went over 100 yards in a single game. If Lynch is fully healthy now, that adds yet another wrinkle to the Penn State rushing attack.
Penn State now has a great problem in the backfield, with three backs who have all shown an ability to carry the load. While it could be tough to keep everyone involved in the game plan in the final two games, that’s an issue that head coach Bill O’Brien is likely happy to deal with.
Seeing who leads Penn State in rushing will make an interesting storyline for the final two games of 2013.
Follow VBR Co-Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter