Bill Belton understands one of the most important truths about playing running back in the Big Ten.
Bill Belton torched Iowa for 103 yards and three touchdowns last week.
"Every play's not going to be a home run," he said. "Getting the tough yards is what matters. Every play's not going to be a 20-yard gain. You get 2, 3, then maybe 20."
Whether he's connecting for home runs or singles to the opposite field, Penn State's sophomore tailback is just glad to be back in the batter's box. He missed all but a couple of plays in the first four games with a high right ankle sprain and looked a little sluggish when he returned against Illinois.
Belton hit his stride last week against Iowa, though, running for a career-high 103 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. That total included a couple of long runs but Belton got most of his yardage between the tackles.
It was a performance that helped Penn State control the clock and one that Belton relished after so much time on the sideline and in the training room.
"Being out for a while makes you want to play more. You definitely miss the game," he said. "But trusting the training staff, talking to my parents definitely kept me on the right track."
Belton got his first major playing time as a Nittany Lion the last time Penn State took on Ohio State. He ran for 15 yards on four carries (12 on one play) as a Wildcat quarterback as the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes 20-14 in Columbus last November. He said Wednesday he remembers a physical Ohio State defense and expects more of the same when the teams clash Saturday night.
Belton has gotten the start in all four games he has played this season and is again listed atop this week's depth chart. He knows he'll likely continue to share carries with Zach Zwinak, Michael Zordich and Derek Day, though. His goals are to continue to make the most of each run and to find the end zone again, though his touchdown celebrations might be a bit more low-key after he picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for shushing the Iowa crowd Saturday night.
"I got an earful (from Bill O'Brien)," he said. "Basically it was a bad decision by me. By getting the penalty I put the defense and kickoff team in a bad position."
That's a lesson Belton learned quickly.
"You will not see (any) more of that," Belton said. "At all."