Penn State Nittany Lions: Zack Zwinak

Spring game preview: Penn State

April, 19, 2013
It's another big weekend of spring games in the Big Ten, as three schools wrap up their drills with a Saturday exhibition inside their home stadiums.

We're here to preview them all, starting with Penn State's annual Blue-White game ...

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Where: Beaver Stadium

Admission: Free. Parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and lots open at 8 a.m. Fans will be able to enter the stadium through Gates A, B, C and E.

TV: Live on Big Ten Network

Weather forecast: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 49 degrees.

What to watch for: Forget traditional football scoring. Like last year's 77-65 game, head coach Bill O'Brien will divide the team between offense and defense and award points like so: two points for consecutive first downs and two points for single plays of 15 yards or more for the offense. Six points for a turnover, four for a sack and one for a three-and-out for the defense. For those scoring at home, well, don't bother. Just enjoy as the offense and defense go head to head and don't have to worry about splitting up units.

Like any team with a quarterback battle, the Nittany Lions' competition under center will get a lot of attention in this game. It's a two-man race between Steven Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson. O'Brien has said both players are neck-and-neck this spring, but maybe a big spring game performance will help one gain separation over the other. More likely, the competition will go into August, with freshman Christian Hackenberg thrown into the mix.

The team's depth at tight end should be on display, as Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman are likely to be limited at best because of injuries. Running backs Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch could see plenty of reps as they vie for carries alongside Zach Zwinak.

On defense, fans will see a new-look linebacking corps missing graduated stars Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. Mike Hull and redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman will try to show that they can reach the high standard at Linebacker U.

O'Brien has tried to limit some of the hitting in spring practice this year because of depth concerns but says there will be full tackling on Saturday. Even though the game plans will probably be very basic, fans will love seeing some hard-hitting Penn State football again.

Springing ahead: 5 players to watch 

March, 7, 2013
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- With spring practice less than two weeks away, NittanyNation takes a look at five players fans should keep an eye on.

5. CB Da'Quan Davis, sophomore

Last year's stat line: Five tackles, one fumble recovery, three pass breakups

Instant Analysis: PSU 24, Wisconsin 21 OT

November, 24, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Montee Ball set the NCAA record for total touchdowns Saturday, but the Badgers were unable to improve their conference record as Penn State rallied late for the 24-21 overtime win.

Sam Ficken connected on a 37-yard field goal to open up overtime. Wisconsin responded by fumbling and nearly tossing an interception before Kyle French missed a field-goal attempt wide left from 45 yards.

Wisconsin took the early lead in the game by scoring two quick touchdowns -- including Ball's record 79th touchdown -- but Ted Roof's defense adjusted and allowed just seven points the rest of the way. Matt McGloin, who had only 47 passing yards at halftime, rebounded in the second half and paced the offense.

With the win, Penn State's season ends at 8-4 (6-2 Big Ten) while Wisconsin drops to 7-5 (4-4).

It was over when: French missed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide left in overtime. Glenn Carson nearly picked off a pass on third down, and Sean Stanley pushed Wisconsin back after forcing a fumble.

Game ball goes to: Zach Zwinak. He set career highs in carries (36) and rushing yards (179) and was the constant that Penn State's offense needed. He was never tackled for a loss and even outrushed Ball by 68 yards.

Stat of the game: 27 -- the number of yards Ball rushed for in the second half. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the first half but only mustered 1.9 yards a carry in the second half. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill helped clog up the middle to limit Ball's production.

Turning point: Early in the final quarter with PSU trailing 14-13, Bill O'Brien found himself on Wisconsin's 41-yard line. He opted to go for it, and McGloin connected with Jesse James on a crossing route that ended up as a 41-yard touchdown. That gave PSU its first lead.

Unsung hero: Hill. He's not yet 100 percent, but he might have had his best game of his career Saturday. He finished with 12 tackles and a pair of sacks. He was a big reasons PSU was able to shut down Ball in the second half.