Player Spotlight: Zach Zwinak
Zach Zwinak is emerging as a top running back for Penn State this year. Although Zwinak is one of five different tailbacks Penn State has used this season, he has really separated himself from the rest of the field.
Zwinak is a redshirt sophomore from Frederick, Maryland. He was selected to the All-State team as a junior, and was nationally ranked second at the fullback position in High School. In 2010, Zwinak, along with five future Penn State football players, was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.
Zwinak suffered a torn ACL during an October practice in 2010 and was unable to play until the next season. Until recently, he had not seen much action this year, but he has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
With injuries to Bill Belton and Derek Day, the game against Temple was split between Zordich and Zwinak. However, Zordich was experiencing knee troubles, which gave Zwinak his chance to shine. He came through, with 18 carries for 94 yards and showed head coach Bill O’Brien that he deserved more time on the field.
“I’ve definitely improved a lot since the beginning of this season,” said Zwinak.
He knew he had to step up and perform given the unfortunate injuries to his teammates. This season, Zwinak has run for 545 yards on 117 carries, with three touchdowns. He has always been more of a downhill, short yardage running back, and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
This weekend, the Nittany Lions take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team that is first in the Legends Division with a record of 7-2 overall, 4-1 in the conference. Penn State has a chance to play the “spoiler” role and ruin Nebraska’s hopes of going to the Big Ten Championship game.
"It's Nebraska, just another team," Zwinak said. "We focus on what we have to do and not what they're going to be."
Zwinak should look to take advantage of Nebraska’s weak rush defense. Opponents are averaging 183.1 rushing yards per game against Nebraska. Penn State will look for Zwinak in their up-tempo offense. Zwinak said they try to keep the defense “on their toes.” He has adjusted pretty easily to the new style of offense, and it helps him wear down the defense even more.
Penn State is 3-1 on the road this year, and Zwinak credits most of the success to the bond the team has with each other.
“We play for each other," he said. "Create our own excitement and help keep the motivation coming.”
Penn State’s motto this year has been “One Team,” and the Nittany Lions will look to carry that same approach into Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend. Zwinak says there’s no pressure on the Nittany Lions; they simply have to execute the game plan.
Zwinak is a big part of this football team, and looks to run all over this Nebraska defense and lead the Nittany Lions to a big win.
Alex Passaretti is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.