There is a funny thing about kickers in football. No matter how many kicks one may miss in the first 59 minutes of a game, it always has a way to ensure that the one opportunity that comes in the final minute can erase the pains leading up to it. For Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, that opportunity was there to rewrite the game story on the final play of the game at Virginia, but a last second field goal attempt sailed wide left and Penn State dropped to 0-2 with a 17-16 defeat at Virginia Saturday afternoon.
Ficken was 1-for-5 on field goal attempts, and a missed extra point attempt in the fourth quarter would come back to haunt Penn State as Virginia took the lead on their final extra appoint attempt of the day. Rather than see the game head to overtime following the missed field goal attempt as the clock expired, Virginia celebrated the one-point victory.
Penn State opened the scoring midway through the first quarter with Matt McGloin connecting on an eight-yard touchdown pass over the middle to tight end Kyle Carter. The converted extra point attempt would be just one of the two kicks Sam Ficken would make on the day. Penn State missed on an opportunity to put more points on the scoreboard just before the half with some questionable clock management.
Virginia took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter when Michael Rocco capped a nice drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Mathis to the left side of the field. Penn State retook the lead with a big touchdown pass from McGloin to Allen Robinson, but a missed extra point attempt would leave the Nittany Lions in a less than desirable position despite having the lead. A 32-yard field goal from Ficken a couple minutes later gave Penn State a 16-10 lead but the kicking woes would not be overcome for Penn State.
Rocco’s second touchdown pass of the game, a six-yard pass to Jake McGee, put the Cavaliers in front following a successful extra point conversion by drew Jarrett, 17-16. Penn State moved down field and had a chance to win the game with a last second field goal but Ficken’s fourth missed field goal sailed wide left and doomed any sort of a come from behind victory for the visitors.
It was a particularly tough loss given that Penn State’s defense played a much tighter game than a week ago when Ohio seemed to find some cracks to wiggle through in a second half rally in the season opener. The Penn State defense forced four turnovers and held Virginia to under 300 yards of total offense (297 yards) and allowed just 1.3 yards per rush but the pass defense allowed 257 yards through the air from Rocco.
Penn State’s running game was no assurance either, with Derek Day leading the team with 46 rushing yards on 18 attempts and Curtis Dukes adding 30 yards on 10 carries. Bill Belton did not play after being banged up last week against Ohio, and freshman Akeel Lynch is not quite ready to see the field just yet. Penn State rushed for 120 yards, with starting middle linebacker Glenn Carson having a 19-yard run and freshman quarterback adding 18 yards on three rushing attempts while relieving an injured McGloin.
Despite dropping another tough game, head coach Bill O'Brien was proud of his team's effort.
"I'm really proud of these kids," O'Brien said. "Left it all out there today."
Story originally posted on Examiner.com by the author.
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