Belton sits while Zwinak shines
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Bill Belton wasn't injured, which is what many people thought since he only played one play, but instead had a bad week of practice and opened the door for Zach Zwinak to get an opportunity.
Zwinak took full advantage of that opportunity, gaining a career-high 134 yards on 21 carries and anchoring a Penn State rushing attack that ran for 185 yards.
"We all come out every week and try to practice as hard as we can," Zwinak said.
That apparently didn't include Belton last week.
"You've got to earn it on the practice field," coach Bill O'Brien said when asked why Belton, who took the field for one snap in the second quarter, didn't play more.
Zwinak had his third 100-yard game of the season and did the bulk of the running, while Michael Zordich carried 11 times for 33 yards and two touchdowns.
The Zwinak-Belton situation shows the starters that if they don't perform in practice, they can lose their jobs, and shows the backups that their hard work will be rewarded.
"It's not just about our own playing time, too," Zwinak said of practicing hard. "If you come out and have a good week of practice, the line's having a good week, quarterback's having a good week, defense, as a team if everyone comes out each week and practices hard, we're going to execute better."
O'Brien was asked if Belton needs to pass protect better and said that wasn't a factor in his decision.
Moseby-Felder enjoys big game
Brandon Moseby-Felder missed the spring, summer and early training camp with a hamstring injury, so O'Brien said he didn't really know what he had in the receiver. Now he does.
Moseby-Felder caught six passes for 129 yards and the first touchdown of his career. He hauled in a 42-yard catch down the Purdue 6 to set up a TD in the first quarter, then later had a 41-yard scoring grab in the third to make it 34-3.
"The coaches believed in me, and I just wanted to go out there and show them what I can do," said Moseby-Felder, who added, "It feels great to finally get my first touchdown."
Most people doubted PSU's receiving corps after Justin Brown transferred to Oklahoma, but Allen Robinson, tight end Kyle Carter and Moseby-Felder have quieted the critics.
"With Justin Brown leaving, he's definitely probably like the biggest receiver we had, the biggest part of the offense leaving," Moseby-Felder said. "But with him leaving, it opened up doors for me, Allen, Kyle Carter [and others] ... to step up and make plays."
Robinson has 57 catches - just six shy of the school record - and Moseby-Felder said he and Robinson have a "very, very, very [good] competition" going against each other.
"We talk about it all the time, who's going to have a bigger game, who's going to have more catches, and that kind of like motivates us to go out there and do our best," Moseby-Felder said.
Concussion for Dukes
Curtis Dukes suffered a concussion on the first play of the game playing defense on the kickoff team.
"That was a dangerous hit. I was concerned," O'Brien said.
Bench taken off bench
The Lions had the game well in hand late in the third quarter, but O'Brien still decided not to give backup quarterback Steven Bench significant playing time then. Bench did get in the game, however, on the Lions' final offensive series and threw one incomplete pass. His only other playing time this season had been a few plays at Virginia.
There had been speculation O'Brien might try to find a loophole and redshirt Bench despite him already having played, but the coach said that wasn't the case.
TE Carter doesn't make trip
Kyle Carter was listed as probable after suffering an ankle injury late in last week's game against Ohio State, but that appeared to have been a guise by Penn State since Carter wasn't healthy enough to make the trip.
Carter has 35 catches, just six shy of the school record of 41 set by Andrew Quarless in 2009.
"I think he was pretty close [to being able to play]," O'Brien said of Carter.
Ficken enjoys memorable day
It was a happy homecoming for Penn State's kicking game.
Of the Nittany Lions' 70-member travel squad, two - place-kicker Sam Ficken and punter Alex Butterworth - are Indiana natives. Both families hosted large tailgate parties outside Ross-Ade Stadium.
Ficken said he used 27 tickets, borrowing some from his teammates' allotment, and estimated his family's tailgate at "around 80." He made the hometown faithful happy by kicking a pair of field goals, from 27 and 24 yards, along with four extra points and effective kickoffs.
After a slow start to the season, Ficken has now made five of his last six field-goal attempts. He's now 7-of-14 after a 2-for-6 start.
"It felt good," he said of his first game with two field goals. "And having family members in the stadium and my brother and friends here, it felt good to finally have a complete game. Obviously I'm in groove, and I'm staying confident and building on that."
Butterworth averaged 34.2 yards on four punts with a long of 40. But none of his punts were returned, and Lion coach Bill O'Brien praised him "for having one of his better games."
Late in the game, there was a scrum in front of the Penn State bench. After Purdue linebacker Antwon Higgs was called for a late hit out of bounds, Lion quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher was noticeably upset and all but had to be restrained.
O'Brien smirked afterward, "I just hope we got that on film," and added that he might designate Fisher as the assistant coach selected to meet with the media this week.
Speaking of animated assistant coaches, strength coach Craig Fitzgerald, despite 38-degree temperature, wore shorts and a T-shirt on the sidelines. Fitzgerald also fired the team up during the pregame warmups by tearing off his shirt during his customary motivational moment.
"It was pretty chilly out there ... [but] nothing is unexpected with him, which is what I love about him," linebacker Michael Mauti said. "He's one of the best strength coaches in the country, in my opinion."
Purdue's season continues to unravel
The Boilermakers had high hopes and even thought they could win the Leaders Division this season, with both PSU and Ohio State dealing with NCAA sanctions. Instead, Purdue's season has spiraled out of control with another blowout loss, and the seat under coach Danny Hope heated up even more.
"It's tough to tell their confidence level," Hope said of his team. "I thought we took the field very fired up. We had sideline energy and game energy. We came in thinking we could win this game. ... We just weren't able to execute and play well, and that's been typical of big ballgames lately."
Hope benched starter Caleb TerBush and went to Robert Marve at quarterback. The Boilermakers had plenty of opportunities early to get something going on offense but failed to cash in on their great field position.
Marve finished 22-of-39 for 138 yards, while TerBush came in late and was 10-of-20 for 155 yards and one TD. Rob Henry also threw two passes, so Purdue aired it out 62 times. The Boilermakers had only 87 yards rushing.
Even the Purdue folks struggle with the Big Ten division names. At one point, the standings were listed on the video board and had the Boilermakers in the Legends Division.
The Boilermakers missed a 37-yard field goal late in the first half as Paul Griggs' attempt bounced off the right upright.
News and notes
Alex Kenney and Jesse Della Valle handled kickoff return duties for PSU. Belton had been a return man. ... Former PSU WR Justin Brown had a big day for Oklahoma with seven catches for 107 yards and one TD in a win over Iowa State. ... Former PSU QB Kevin Newsome got in the game in mopup duty in Temple's 45-17 loss to Louisville. Newsome didn't attempt a pass but had a 42-yard run and carried three times for 52 yards.