STATE COLLEGE, Pa – Zack Zwinak scored three touchdowns and Penn State running backs combined for 289 yards rushing in leading the Nittany Lions to a 45-21 win over Purdue on Saturday.
The senior has posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games after going without one for nearly two full months, dating back to his 128-yard effort in a loss to UCF. A pair of 1-yard TD runs in the first half coupled with a 5-yard score in the second give the bruising tailback 12 on the season.
While Zwinak and fellow tailback Bill Belton (81 yards and a TD) were impressive, the Nittany Lions’ best pass catcher had the most memorable day. Allen Robinson set the Penn State single-season reception mark with his 78th catch of the season, breaking the record he set last year. The playmaking junior also holds Penn State’s single-season receiving yards record.
Those efforts helped the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) clinch at least a .500 record with remaining games against Nebraska and Wisconsin to close the season.
Penn State started fast against the downtrodden Boilermakers (1-9, 0-6 Big Ten), jumping out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter behind touchdown runs from both Zwinak and Belton.
Purdue responded early in the second quarter when quarterback Danny Etling found Justin Sinz out of the backfield for a 2-yard touchdown to pull the Boilermakers within a score at 14-7.
Etling, a true freshman, finished 21 of 33 for 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his fifth career start.
Another Zwinak score –this one from 1-yard out- pushed the Penn State lead to 21-7, but the Nittany Lions weren’t done scoring before halftime. Christian Hackenberg led the Lions on a 10 play, 78-yard drive that was capped with the Hackenberg hitting fellow freshman Adam Breneman for an 8-yard TD.
But Penn State’s 28-7 lead was short-lived, very short-lived. On the ensuing kickoff, Raheem Mostert weaved past Nittany Lion tacklers and all the way to the end zone 100 yards for the touchdown to pull the Boilermakers back to within 14 at halftime.
With his Boilermakers within a pair of scores, Etling decided to keep it himself on the read option and found the end zone for an 11-yard score at the 11:19 mark to pull the visitors to within a touchdown at 28-21.
But the Nittany Lions had a response, as they did all afternoon.
A Sam Ficken 29-yard field goal a few minutes after Etling’s TD pushed the Penn State lead back to 10, and Zwinak all but finished off the Boilermakers with a 5-yard TD run with 5:21 left in the third quarter and the score 38-21.
Hackenberg added a 4-yard TD run of his own late in the fourth quarter, giving the freshman signal caller 17 TD’s combined on the season. He finished the day 16 of 23 for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
After hearing Purdue coach Darrell Hazell question the Penn State offensive line and running game during the week, all the Nittany Lions did was rack up 289 yards on the ground to the tune of 5 yards per carry and four scores. Hazell’s Boilermakers, meanwhile, registered just a lone rushing yard in the first half, and finished the game with 41 yards on 20 attempts.
Penn State finishes up their home slate next weekend when the Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town. The Nittany Lions haven’t beaten the Huskers since they joined the Big Ten (0-2).
Full highlights courtesy of BTN here