This moment – his first college touchdown – had long been delayed. Bill Belton struggled to see the field while playing receiver as a true freshman. An ankle injury in the opener knocked him out for a month, and it wasn't fully right until last week.
So when Belton finally scored on Saturday – under the lights out in Iowa – he couldn't help himself. Facing Iowa's student section behind the end zone, the sophomore not so subtly put his finger up to his facemask to shush the Hawkeye faithful.
Out came the flag. Unsportsmanlike conduct.
Coach Bill O'Brien had a few unsportsmanlike words of his own for his starting tailback on the sideline.
Well, I got an earful, Belton said Wednesday, able to laugh it off a few days after the fact. Basically a bad decision by me. I put the defense and the kickoff team in a bad position. Things like that I know I can't do. You will not see no more of that at all.
Belton learned his lesson quickly. The New Jersey native added career touchdown No. 2 and No. 3 later in the night.
After a frustrating first six weeks of the season, Belton broke through for a career game against Iowa and has given Penn State's offense an added dimension headed into Saturday's showdown against Ohio State.
Bill needed that week off to get his ankle back, quarterback Matt McGloin said Saturday. He's back to 100 percent. That's the guy we've been expecting to see.
Though Belton has started all three Big Ten games for the Nittany Lions, he didn't have the burst he showed during preseason camp in the first two. He was effectively benched after the first series of the Northwestern game, giving way to Zach Zwinak.
That wasn't an issue against the Hawkeyes, as Belton posted career-highs in yards (103) and carries (16) on top of the touchdowns.
It was great to get back (to full strength), Belton said. Being out for awhile just actually makes you want to play more. I definitely missed the game, but I had to remain patient. The trainers especially kept me on track.
Zwinak had filled in admirably and had the look of a developing into a feature back, piling up better than 300 yards rushing against Temple, Illinois and Northwestern while also proving to be a reliable checkdown option in the passing game. He remains the team's rushing leader through seven games.
But two lost fumbles against Iowa – including one just as he was about to reach over the goal line for a touchdown – hurt his stock and reinforced a committee approach to the run game in the second half of the season.
Belton said ball security remains one of the Lions' top concerns at the position, particularly this weekend against the undefeated Buckeyes.
Apart from that, Belton said he thought his time on the sideline taught him some patience as he learns the nuances of the position.
Every run doesn't have to be a home run, Belton said. Coming into the season, that's something I had to work on – getting the tough yards is what matters. Not every play is gonna be a 20-yard run.
I just have to stay with it and not press and do too much.
Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller practiced as expected on Wednesday and is showing no lingering effects of the hard tackle that briefly hospitalized him on Saturday.
The Buckeyes hedged a bit on Monday, saying they would prepare both Miller and backup Kenny Guiton to face Penn State. But Miller told reporters in Columbus on Wednesday that he was full go to take on the Lions.
Ohio State Penn State
TV: 5:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College
Last Meeting: PSU won 20-14 on Nov. 19, 2011 (vacated)