Belton Has Career Day in Win
Penn State football has had many prolific rushers in its storied history. John Cappelletti won a Heisman Trophy and Larry Johnson once rushed for 279 yards in a single game. The list goes continues.
It may be too soon to say that Bill Belton should be mentioned in the same breath as these all-time greats, but he had a game Saturday that should be remembered. Belton rushed for 201 yards in a 24-17 overtime victory, over Illinois at Beaver Stadium. It was the most since Larry Johnson in 2002, against Michigan State.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Belton had put up 467 yards on the season and rushed for three touchdowns. He has been the primary back as of late, but Zack Zwinak was the team’s starter on opening day. It has been because of Zwinak’s difficulties holding onto the ball, that Belton has seen so many carries.
Before Saturday, Belton had recorded just one 100-yard rushing performance this season and saw as few as five carries against Central Florida. Belton’s career rushing yards totaled 790 yards.
It’s safe to say Bill O’Brien is a coach that likes to stick with the hot hand. In his two years in charge of Penn State, O’Brien has had a reputation of fluctuating backs from game to game and hasn’t shied away from putting someone on the bench, if he thinks there is someone who will give him more production in a given situation. Last year it was Zwinak who took over midseason as the ‘main guy’. Maybe Saturday was an indication that Belton will be getting most of the carries for the rest of this season.
It may have been an individual achievement for Belton, but his play certainly went a long way toward securing a win. Penn State was able to take pressure off of true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, by consistently feeding Belton allowing him to eat up yards. Belton also felt as though his offensive line deserved the credit for his career performance.
“I just want to thank the offensive line for everything that they’ve done for me this year and today,” Belton said. “They do a good job with helping me see certain things.”
Despite his breakthrough performance, Belton had a costly fumble at the Illini one yard line in the final minutes of the game, that nearly cost Penn State the game. Much of the time, O’Brien will go with another back after something like that happens. Belton was thankful that he had the opportunity to make up for his mistake.
“When that happened I wanted to go right back in there and get it back and make up for it,” Belton said about his opportunity to return to the game. “It was a costly mistake that I can’t do.”
O’Brien believes that Belton has turned a corner, in a lot of areas on and off the field. Despite the fumble, O’Brien trusted Belton by putting him back in the game in a crucial situation due to the fact that he was one of the main reasons they were in a position to win the football game.
“We try to tell him not to reach out for the goal line but he did anyway,” O’Brien said regarding the fumble. “Other than that he had a whale of a football game.”
Belton still has a long way to go to be mentioned along with Penn State’s all-time great backs, but he has shown that he possesses the skills and the resilience to be a huge weapon for the team in the future.
Jason Shawley is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.