92 Yards Later, Belton and Ground Game are Back on Track
Finally, a Penn State running back surpassed the 100-yard mark in a single game this season.
Bill Belton, the Nittany Lions’ senior feature back, amassed 137 yards on 16 carries, his fourth career 100-yard game. 92 of those came on a late second quarter touchdown sprint.
The burst was the longest scoring run in school history, and it came at an opportune time. Two plays earlier, Indiana safety Mark Murphy intercepted Christian Hackenberg and returned the pass to the end zone, giving the Hoosiers a 7-0 lead.
“I don’t think it’s going to set in until were out of here,” he said. “Right now I’m just happy to think about it.”
Belton snuck through an opening, then outran a pair of Hoosiers defenders, evading a late tackle near the ten-yard line. Belton wanted to score to tie the score, sure, but he also dread the teasing that would follow had he been run down. “I was willing him into the end zone,” said James Franklin after the game. “I’ve never seen a run like that when guys are on his back for the whole 92 yards. I’m really happy for him.”
“I told [my teammates] I never get caught from behind,” Belton said. “That’ s all I was thinking about. That would have been a big deal in the running back room.” Indeed it would have. Belton said he doesn’t remember the last time he’s run a 90-yard sprint.
“The line did a great job on that play, once I got through there, there was no one in the middle of the field,” he said. “It was just intuition, I just felt them [behind me] and just went from there.”
While Belton intrinsically willed himself to the end zone, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson offered a much more technical explanation on his team’s defensive lapse. “We were in a quarters two-deep look,” he said. “Their back is a solid player and just hit the seam and had the one big play.”
At the time of the touchdown, Belton had minus-one yard on runs that weren’t his 92-yarder. But by the second half, he and his line began to click. Midway through the third quarter, Belton took a snap from the Wildcat. He faked a handoff, and kept it under center, eluding defenders for 16 yards into Indiana territory.
Then, with just over two minutes to play and a three point lead, a shifty 14-yard scamper gave Penn State a needed first down to extend a drive that would eat clock and lead to Sam Ficken’s final field goal.
Though only three runs, it’s room for optimism. Guard Miles Dieffenbach made his season debut, and the offensive line, though admittedly playing a weak Hoosiers’ side, looked to be pushing the defense backwards, and not vice versa.
“[Having Miles back] got the guys fired up,” said offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro. “For the rest of the guys up front, we’re so happy for him.”
Left tackle Donovan Smith, however, did not play. He missed his second game in a row following an injury on Saeed Blacknall’s touchdown reception against Ohio State.
Belton attributed most of the credit for the run to running backs coach Charles Huff, who Belton said he celebrated the most with after the game. “In the summer we all met with Coach Huff,” Belton explained. “He taught us about leading away from defenders and creating positive angels away from defenders to enable positive runs.”