Penn State Football

Penn State football: Zwinak leaves Blue-White Game with hand injury

Zach Zwinak left Penn State’s Blue-White Game in the first quarter on Saturday with a left hand injury.

After the game, coach Bill O’Brien said he had no update on the junior running back.

“I haven’t heard,” O’Brien said. “I’ll know more probably (Sunday).”

It appeared Zwinak was hurt on the third play of the game. Quarterback Steven Bench connected with Zwinak on a 14-yard passing play and the running back was knocked out of bounds by a defender whose helmet contacted Zwinak’s hand. After the play, Zwinak headed to the sideline where he remained the rest of the game.

Trainers tended to him, wrapping his hand with a large ice pack.

O’Brien said earlier this season that Zwinak will enter the 2013 season as the starter. The junior from Frederick, Md. solidified himself midway through last season as Penn State’s most devastating ball carrier. He finished 2012 with 1,000 yards on 203 carries with six touchdowns.

Lions add recruit

Nearly 80 potential recruits took in the intrasquad scrimmage from the sideline with one being so enthused that he committed to Penn State immediately following the game.

Multiple reliable recruiting services reported De’Andre Thompkins orally committed to Penn State on Saturday.

Thompkins, a 6-foot, 170-pound wideout who hails from Swansboro, N.C., is considered a three-star recruit by and a four-star prospect by He is the fifth prospect to orally commit to Penn State in the 2014 class, joining wideout Troy Apke (Pittsburgh), running back Mark Allen (Hyattsville, Md.), athlete Nick Scott (Fairfax, Va.) and linebacker Troy Reeder (Wilmington, Del.).

Kicking the can

Sam Ficken’s missed 37-yard field goal and hooked PAT try in the intrasquad scrimmage aren’t going to cause O’Brien to lose much sleep.

He’s confident that the junior kicker who nailed 12 of his last 13 field goal tries will be fine heading into this season.

“I know that Sam Ficken is an improved kicker since the Wisconsin game,” O’Brien said. “So I have confidence in him.”

O’Brien had punter Alex Butterworth handle holding duties for Ficken on Saturday. Usually, Ryan Keiser is the starting holder but O’Brien wanted to give Butterworth a chance to hold. There was no punting in the Blue-White game but Butterworth did get to practice his craft before the opening kickoff as Penn State took about 20 minutes to run 11-on-11 special teams drills before the game.

The Nittany Lions ranked 11th in the Big Ten in punting last season.

O’Brien miked

Fans who attended Saturday’s game were treated to a rare earful of the Penn State football program.

They got to hear O’Brien interact with his players in an in-game situation. The second-year head coach was wired for sound for the third quarter. Play calls and banter between O’Brien, his assistants and his players were audible throughout Beaver Stadium for nearly 15 minutes.

He jokingly chirped Brad Bars, started numerous “We are ...” chants and even requested the wave from fans who sat in the lower bowl of the stadium.

“That was interesting,” O’Brien said. “I think it was pretty clean and that’s good.”

Reaping rewards

Five players received annual spring awards.

Center Ty Howle received the Red Worell Award and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan and defensive back Jordan Lucas shared the Jim O’Hora Award. Those honors are given to the offensive and defensive players who best demonstrate exemplary conduct, loyalty, interest, attitude and improvement during spring practice.

“It means a lot,” Howle said of his award. “I’m not one who likes to hear my name called a lot, but it’s an honor.”

Linebacker Mike Hull and offensive lineman Miles Dieffenbach shared the Frank Patrick Memorial “Total Committment” Award.