Penn State Football

Penn State football: Zach Zwinak brings physical presence for Nittany Lions

Zach Zwinak sat inside the Beaver Stadium media room with a bag of ice wrapped tightly around his left wrist.

You should see the other guys.

Penn State’s powerful, 240-pound running back burst threw open holes all afternoon and pounded Purdue defenders as they tried to head him off for 149 of Penn State’s 289 rushing yards on Saturday. His 26 carries tied his season high set last week when he ran for 150 yards against Minnesota.

He added three touchdowns.

For a running back that was struggling with fumbling issues having put three balls on the ground in crucial moments earlier this season, the last two weeks have been refreshing for the red-haired bulldozer from Frederick, Md.

He said the fumbling issue never deterred him and he’s grown comfortable wearing gloves since trying them out for the first time two weeks ago.

“It’s exciting,” Zwinak said. “The line was blocking great today. The tight ends were blocking great today and the receivers were blocking down the field. It was a definitely a great day to have everybody playing well.”

Zwinak was no exception.

Bill Belton started his fourth straight game for Penn State but Zwinak handled most of Penn State’s rushing duties for the second week in a row. Belton and Akeel Lynch were used and combined for 28 carries for 125 yards and Belton opened the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run.

But Zwinak was a constant, physical presence. His three touchdowns — two from just a yard out and another from five yards away — broke the backs of Purdue’s defenders. A player who has broken opponents’ facemasks by lowering his head on them, Zwinak could’ve broke even more.

“He’s a big, physical kid and runs hard,” Penn State defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. “He delivers a good blow. I mean, he really does.”

Zwinak pounded his way to nine or more yards on seven of his carries and h handled heavy workloads on four drives.

In the first, he took back-to-back carries for 26 yards carrying Purdue’s Ricardo Allen, Evan Feichter and Sean Robinson with him. In the second quarter he handled five-straight carries and dragged Ruben Ibarra along with him on two of those. In the fourth quarter he earned three-straight carries twice with one break in between and broke off runs of 11 and 13 yards.

None of the physical wear and tear seemed to hamper Zwinak.

“I think at this stage of the year when you’re heading into your 10th, 11th and 12th game, those guys have some bumps and bruises so we have a pretty good gauge on it,” O’Brien said.

Belton and Lynch contributed to lighten Zwinak’s load. Lynch saw his first action in three weeks after missing Penn State’s last two games with a sprained MCL.

“It’s very impressive,” offensive tackle Garry Gilliam said “He’ll always fall forward for at least three or four yards, even if there’s someone in his way even a defensive linemen, he’ll run them over. For an offensive line, that’s good to know.”