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Penn State Football Notebook: Zordich Underutilized in Past, Mauti Says

by on September 22, 2012 8:34 PM

Earlier this week, Matt McGloin was critical of the previous coaching staff for not giving wide receiver Allen Robinson the chance he deserved last season.

Saturday, after Mike Zordich racked up 114 all-purpose yards, senior linebacker Mike Mauti said his roommate was underutilized in his first three seasons.

“To say that would be an understatement,” Mauti said. “Watch his high school highlight tape, that’s all you can really say because he hasn’t gotten many opportunities here in the past four years. He’s been up in the coaches’ ears for four years, and he just hasn’t had an opportunity.”

Sam Ficken Kicks Aside Criticism Post-Virginia Debacle

Sam Ficken has put the missed field goals and bungled extra points well behind him.

Facing the media for the first time since missing four field goals in a one-point loss to Virginia on Sept. 8, Ficken said that even if he did receive any death threats, he wasn’t paying any attention to the criticism that came his way.

“You kind of roll with the punches I guess,” said Ficken, who connected on all three extra points and a 21-yard field goal Saturday against Temple. “I did miss four kicks. I understand fans being pretty upset, but you gotta move forward. You can’t really say anything about them being negative about me.”

Ficken started kicking late in his high school career and started seeing specialist Todd Van Keppel before his junior year. After the Virginia game, Van Keppel called Ficken and told him he was lifting his head up. It’s been Ficken’s focus ever since, and he said he had missed only a couple of kicks in the two weeks of practice since the game. He also said the entire field goal operation was not in sync, but “that falls back on me, I gotta make those kicks either way.”

John Butler primarily works with Ficken on his technique, including pointing his plant foot at his target, an area O’Brien said needed work. Mac McWhorter, the team’s offensive line coach, handles the rest of the field goal unit.

Former kickers such as Kevin Kelly and Robbie Gould, who went through his own tough times at Penn State before becoming one of the best kickers in the NFL, reached out to Ficken to lift his spirits. And, Ficken’s gotten a kick out of the student body cheering his makes in warm-ups and in games, no matter the distance.

“It was an extra point and they were acting like it was a 60-yard field goal,” Ficken said. “I thought it was kind of funny.”

Bill Belton Drops Hint on Twitter that He'll Return at Illinois

Penn State may be getting a much-needed lift at the running back position heading into the Big Ten season.

Bill Belton took to Twitter to issue post-win kudos to his teammates, then hinted that he should finally be over the ankle sprain that sidelined him since Sept. 1.

“Time for Illinois. Guess who's backkkk,” tweeted Belton, who rushed for 53 yards on 13 carries against Ohio and caught three passes for 16 yards and a touchdown.

Belton’s return would come at a pivotal time. Mike Zordich left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised left knee. It’s not considered a serious injury, and Zordich did not sound concerned after the game.

“I would say he’d probably spit on it and be all right,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said.

Penn State has survived without its top tailback coming out of preseason practice, and O'Brien said after the game that he would stick with a committee-like system — one that would include Belton — for the immediate future.

Saturday, Zach Zwinak (94 rush yards, 12 receiving yards) made his case to be included in that group.

"We'll have a rotation there and hopefully one of them will get hot," O'Brien said. "And that's what we'll do. But Billy will get back in rotation as soon as he gets healthy."

O'Brien: 'We Took a Step Back' with Penalties

Penn State had nine penalties for 100 yards Saturday, the most penalty yardage since it had 100 yards against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 9, 2000.

One penalty that stood out was a holding call that negated an Alex Kenney catch-and-run in the first quarter of a scoreless game that would've put Penn State within the Temple 5.

"I was disappointed in that on our end," O'Brien said. "We have got to do a better job on that. We had lineman penalties, holding calls and offensive pass interference."

Howle Returns

Ty Howle returned to the field after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle early in the summer.

Howle started the second offensive series at left guard and was the snapper for extra points and field goals.

Injury Notes:

Defensive end Sean Stanley did not play because of back spasms, he said after the game. Stanley was held out for precautionary reasons so that he can play in next week's Big Ten opener at Illinois (noon kick).

Joining Stanley on the sideline were running backs Belton (ankle) Curtis Dukes (thigh) and Derek Day (shoulder), left tackle Donovan Smith (ankle), linebacker Nyeem Wartman (knee) and defensive end Pete Massaro (knee, shoulder)

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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