Lynch may be best of bunch in PSU backfield

The Nittany Lions have three good tailbacks who can do a lot of damage at any point in Zach?Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch, and it’s possible the best of the bunch is a guy in Lynch who didn’t even get on the field until the closing minutes of Saturday’s 34-0 thumping of Kent State.

Lynch ran for 123 yards on only 14 carries, showing power and elusiveness. He looks like a good mix between Zwinak and Belton, and once he gets his blocking skills down, he could become a factor much earlier in games.

Not to diminish what Lynch accomplished, but his carries did come late in the game against a tired defense full of players who knew by that point they had zero chance of winning. I point that out because there is a growing number of PSU fans who want to see Lynch become the starter over Zwinak.

That’s not fair to Zwinak, or even Belton, both of whom are having to carry the ball early in games against fresh defenses with the outcome yet to be determined.

The rotation of Zwinak first, then Belton, then Lynch seems to be working and gives PSU coach Bill O’Brien the luxury of keeping a good, fresh tailback in at all times.

Maybe Lynch is the best of the three – or could be soon – but Zwinak ran for 1,000 yards last season and has earned the opportunity to be the first ball carrier.

The Lions’ defense played great Saturday, but let’s not jump to the conclusion that all the problems have been solved simply by shutting out a lousy offensive team. College football teams and games are not apples to apples comparisons.

Indiana, which averages 349 yards passing, will be a much better test for the secondary in two weeks. After that game we’ll have a better indication about the defensive line’s ability to rush the passer and the cornerbacks’ ability to shut down receivers.

Christian Hackenberg played poorly Saturday, plain and simple. Surely the rain played a role in his struggles, and he probably lost some confidence, too, as he continued to misfire.

But in all honesty, that kind of game might be the best thing that could have happened to?Hackenberg.

There was no chance Penn State was going to lose, so the 18-year-old freshman was able to survive having a bad game without the additional burden of feeling like he let the team down in a loss.

Players can improve when everything’s going great, but many learn more about themselves when they face adversity and find ways to overcome it.

Hackenberg really hadn’t encountered adversity until Saturday, so now Bill O’Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher have a lot of areas they can point to during their film study to help the young quarterback see his mistakes and figure out how to correct them.

Penn State’s Big Ten opener at Indiana on Oct. 5, has been set for a noon kickoff on the Big Ten Network. The Nittany Lions are 16-0 vs. the Hoosiers since joining the Big Ten.