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Penn State Football: With Only 35 Points Back, Lions Hope for a Ficken of a Time

by on August 15, 2012 10:02 PM

Penn State’s offense could have a dickens of a time this fall. That’s when it will be Ficken time.

With their top rusher, receiver and kicker gone, points could very well be at a premium for the Nittany Lions.

Only 35 of Penn State’s total 251-point output from 2011 is back.

So don’t expect a Madden-like output in 2012, says head coach Bill O’Brien.

“What you won’t see, I'll tell you, is I wouldn’t expect 40 points a game, 35 points a game,” O’Brien said last week. “I wouldn't expect the 2007 New England Patriots. I would expect a good, tough football team that plays good on defense, good on special teams and is able to score some points on offense.”

In 2011, Anthony Fera was an impressive 14 of 17 on three-pointers, and made all 20 of his extra point attempts. The Nittany Lions must not only replace his 62 points, but those from last season’s second through seventh scorers as well – Silas Redd (42), Stephfon Green (36), Derek Moye (18), Justin Brown (12), Devon Smith (12) and Joe Suhey (12).

That’s 194 of Penn State’s 251 points last season. Add another 22 points from other departed players and, in all, the Nittany Lions only have an unlucky 13.9 percent of its scoring output back on the roster.

This is where the aforementioned Sam Ficken enters the picture. He'll need to produce the best of his times in the worst of times.

With the departure of Fera to Texas, Ficken has ascended to the No. 1 job as the Nittany Lions’ placement specialist, handling field goals, extra points and most likely kickoffs. He’ll be the point guy for pressure in more ways than one.

Like many 19-year-old college sophomores, the rangy finance major from Valparaiso, Ind., has a penchant for sports that tend to the extreme and thrill-seeking – like water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing and skiing.

This fall, add kicking field goals for Penn State to the list. Ficken knows a big burden is on his shoulders. But he doesn’t feel it.

“I just try to stay as relaxed as possible,” said Ficken, by nature a low-key guy. “Honestly, in my position you’re not supposed to let pressure faze you. If you don’t worry about, that’s the best way to handle it. Just do your job and everyone loves you. Be peaceful.”

That said, Ficken let loose a small smile.

It was the thin grin of a lean kicker – 6-foot-2, 172 pounds – who is so unassuming that he wears an unlikely No. 97. Normally, that number at Penn State is reserved for a defensive lineman like Tyoka Jackson. Or a linebacker like Scott Radecic.

The number Ficken cares about most is three – for a field goal. Ficken says he feels comfortable from “55 yards in. I get lots of distance on my field goals.” Ficken’s numbers were great in high school, but not so much in limited action for Penn State as a freshman.

He was named first-team Associated Press Class 5A all-state at Valparaiso High School. A former soccer player, he made 13 field goals as a senior, including a school-record 52-yard kick. He also recorded 45 touchbacks on kickoffs during his senior season.

In 2011 at Penn State, Ficken appeared in four games. He was 1 of 2 on field goals, making a 43-yarder against Eastern Michigan in Beaver Stadium while getting a rushed 50-yard attempt at the end of the first half at Temple blocked. He kicked off four times, averaging 65.2 per kick, and made his only PAT.

Now, he has to step up. Big time.

“You’re on scholarship,” Ficken said O’Brien told him. “Be consistent. Do your job.”

The kicker paused. “That’s the way he is.”

So, apparently, is Ficken: “I’m not here to sit on the bench. I’m excited for the opportunity.”



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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