The Nittany Lions have been banged up at linebacker and tight end all year.
And now, with their regular season about to end, the most significant kinds of bumps and bruises have spread. The question is what will it mean to Saturday’s game in Wisconsin?
Of particular note are the running backs, as well as cornerback Adrian Amos.
Tailback Bill Belton didn’t play last weekend because of an undisclosed shoulder injury and strep throat. Penn State missed his change-of-pace quickness and his receiving ability out of the backfield.
“Belton looks like he’s going to be good to go,” coach Bill O’Brien said today. “We’ll (evaluate) that throughout the week.”
However, injuries are a prickly topic under O’Brien. Belton, for example, was not listed on last week’s injury report and there was no word of playing status being in jeopardy until just before game time when he was spotted wearing street clothes on the sideline.
Then there’s Zach Zwinak.
He’s been bruising and barreling through opponents as expected the past three weeks and now has a shot at a second-straight 1,000-yard season (874 yards heading into Wisconsin).
But his punishing running style appears to be coming with a price. After his 35-carry, 149-yard performance vs. Nebraska, O’Brien admitted that he played with a sore wrist and shoulder. Today, O’Brien reminded reporters that Zwinak broke his wrist in the Blue-White Game last spring, needed surgery, and was slowed down much of the summer.
“Zwinak, he was banged around pretty good. Obviously, a very physical game on Saturday,” O’Brien said. “He looks to be OK for (Wisconsin).”
On defense, the biggest question mark is Amos. He’s also come on strong down the stretch after shifting from safety back to cornerback.
He had another five tackles and a sack against the Cornhuskers.
But will his foot be good enough on Saturday? The Lions need him at full-strength to lead a shaky secondary.
“He seems to be moving around better and better every day,” O’Brien said.
And, lastly, there is kicker Sam Ficken. A couple of weeks ago O’Brien mentioned that the junior was dealing with a minor leg injury or muscle strain.
There was no word on whether that came into play on his missed extra point and missed overtime field goal against Nebraska.