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Penn State Football: Ficken Kick Concludes One Of The Great Careers In Program History

by on December 29, 2014 2:00 PM

Penn State coach James Franklin has long said that kicker Sam Ficken is one of the Nittany Lions' most dangerous offensive weapons.

All things considered, that's an amazing thing to read.

By the time Ficken lined up to kick the game tying 45-yard field goal this weekend, his story had been told and retold more times than anyone could count. From five misses and a chance to win the game against Virginia almost three years ago to making game winning field goals and kicks so frequently that he was essentially automatic. Every make was an addition to that legacy.

And that's what made Ficken's kick on Saturday so stressful. It didn't matter if you wanted Penn State to win or lose. if you cared about the outcome or simply flipped over the channel by chance. For a player who was in the final game of his college career, a miss would have sent him back to square one.

If he missed Ficken might be remembered for turning his career around only to miss one of the biggest kicks of his career. It would have been a heartbreaking moment to watch even for the most unbiased reporters -- a cruel conclusion to a good story.

But like so many of his kicks, Ficken drilled this one through the uprights. There was never really any doubt though, because Sam Ficken has become a kicking machine.

Minutes later when Kyle Carter caught a touchdown pass to tie the game in overtime, fans essentially celebrated the victory. Ficken wasn't missing a game winning extra point. 

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And Sam Ficken didn't.

"I couldn't have written a better way for it to go," Ficken said. "This team has worked so hard, fought through so much, and to say we made it to a bowl, first off, then won the bowl, that's really incredible. And to end it that way, in overtime, in Yankee Stadium, in New York City, that's perfect. You couldn't ask for anything better than that. I never root for another kicker to miss because of what I went through. However, I was a little excited. At that point, we just get it in the end zone, and I'm going to knock it home."

Fittingly Ficken's locker at Yankee Stadium was that of Derek Jeter's. Both players ending their Yankee Stadium careers with walk-off hits/kicks and both celebrating in the arms of their teammates. Penn State may never admit to setting it up that way -- and maybe it was entirely luck -- but it was fitting either way.

"I was kind of surprised they even let people still use it, to be honest," Ficken said. "It's funny because a lot of the guys remember how Jeter ended his career, and they're like, 'Dude, the stars have aligned.' It's coincidental, but it's a very cool storyline, and I couldn't be more thankful for that."

Ficken will try his hand, or rather foot, at the NFL. No matter what happens next in his career, it's hard to imagine a moment better than sprinting around the field as the crowd roared in one of the most famous stadiums in the world, closing a chapter on one of the great careers in Penn State football history.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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