LINCOLN, Neb. -- Running back Zach Zwinak said he saw a hole open, cut back a little and then he just ran. Next thing he knew, he had run for 50 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Nebraska. He showcased breakaway speed that few would have guessed he had, particularly at the beginning of this season.
"I never know what I have in me sometimes," Zwinak said. "I saw some guys close to me and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not. I made it, so I was happy about that."
Zwinak finished with 141 rushing yards on 21 carries. He left the game in the third quarter with cramps, took an IV -- he hates needles -- and quickly returned.
"He's a tough kid," coach Bill O'Brien said.
For the season, he leads Penn State with 686 yards on 138 carries. If only he could hold onto the ball.
Zwinak fumbled at the 10-yard line in the first quarter Saturday. He also fumbled twice in the red zone against Iowa in October.
"I have to watch the film," Zwinak said of his fumble from Saturday. "I can just tell you it was unacceptable that I lost it."
The turnovers haven't been enough to take him out of the running back rotation. In the past three games, Zwinak has carried the ball 54 times. Running backs Bill Belton and Mike Zordich have carried it 11 and 18 times, respectively.
Though Zwinak has earned the majority of rushing attempts this past month, O'Brien still says he is using his running back by committee approach. Zwinak echoed the sentiment, adding that he didn't know exactly what set him apart from the other two during practices in recent weeks.
Each week, he said, none of the running backs know who will start or who will get the most reps. Zwinak likes it this way. He said the committee approach allowed him to get his break in the first place.
"Throughout the week, one person sees this and another sees this, and you never see the same look," he said. "So we help each other and teach each other. We strive to be the best we can and help each other."
Clearly, right now, Zwinak is Penn State's best.
Mark Dent: email@example.com, Twitter @mdent05 First Published November 12, 2012 5:00 AM