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Ficken breaks down Virginia game

If you were wondering what was going through Sam Ficken's head a couple of Saturdays ago, just before the Penn State kicker came out to attempt a potentially game-winning 42-yard field goal against Virginia, well, here it is:

Sam Ficken's 21-yard field goal gave Penn State a late 18-point lead in the win over Temple.

"I was actually pretty happy (for the chance) to redeem myself," Ficken said Saturday after Penn State beat Temple 24-13. "I hadn't missed four kicks my whole senior year. So I'd never missed that many kicks in one game."

Ficken's redemption would have to wait. He missed that kick, too, his fifth miss of the afternoon when you include a blocked extra point. It completed a performance during Penn State's 17-16 loss that left many fans in anger, shock or disbelief, a performance Ficken wanted to quickly put behind him.

"It's my job to keep moving forward," he said Saturday. "I had to focus on that and my technique and think about the next kick."

Ficken credited teammates Deron Thompson, T.J. Rhattigan, Jordan Kerner, Angelo Mangiro and Ben Kline with encouraging him the rest of that weekend, and said he also received support from Penn State fans, former players, friends and family.

The messages that were the most encouraging came from former Penn State kickers Robbie Gould, Kevin Kelly and Massimo Manca, plus Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who shared their own experiences with bad days.

"I think they kind of knew what I was going through to a point and they wanted to help," Ficken said.

Ficken didn't have a terrific bounce-back game against Navy, making four extra points but pushing a fifth try wide right, though he was perfect every time he was called upon against the Owls, connecting on all three of his extra-point tries and converting just his second field goal of the season, a 21-yarder with 2:29 left in the game that extended Penn State's lead to three scores.

After the Virginia game, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien had talked about working with Ficken to correctly align his plant foot, but Saturday the kicker, now 2-of-6 on field goals this season, identified another technical problem that had been working against him in Charlottesville.

"I think it was me pulling my head up after my first miss," he said. "I was pulling my head up pretty quick. You're never supposed to do that as a kicker."

O'Brien had also been quick to point out that the snaps and holds on Ficken's misses left much to be desired. Ficken admitted as much Saturday but said it didn't let him off the hook.

"The whole process, from snap to hold to kick, wasn't perfect," he said. "But that falls back on me. I've got to make those kicks, either way."

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