NCAA FB

Penn St. coach backs embattled kicker

PSU
Penn State is sticking with its struggling kicker.
Share This Story

   
 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)

Kicking woes underscore a larger problem for Penn State.

Coach Bill O'Brien's offense will need to improve in the red zone if the Nittany Lions plan on making any splash in the Big Ten. It's getting tough enough after an 0-2 start in nonconference play.

After forcing four turnovers inside Virginia territory in a 17-16 loss last week to the Cavaliers, resilient Penn State came away with just three points off those chances.

''Offensively, we've got to do a better job in the red zone. We can't take four turnovers from our defense and come away with only three points,'' O'Brien said. ''That's ridiculous, and we all know that, and it starts with coaching and we've just got to do a better job there.''

Better make it quick if Penn State wants to avoid opening a season with three straight losses for the first time since beginning the 2001 campaign 0-4. Navy (0-1) and its triple-option attack visits Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

Sam Ficken figures to still be attempting the field goals then. The kicker was the obvious player to blame by fickle fans on social media following his dismal day against Virginia.

The sophomore's nightmarish afternoon included a blocked extra-point attempt and four missed four field goals, including the potential game-winner from 42 yards in a heavy drizzle. Ficken's only make Saturday was from 32.

AP Top 25

Rk

Team

Points

1 Notre Dame (60) 1500
2 Alabama 1400
3 Georgia 1331
4 Ohio State 1294
5 Florida 1262
6 Oregon 1242
7 Kansas State 1079
8 Stanford 1061
9 LSU 1056
10 Texas A&M 1043
11 South Carolina 916
12 Oklahoma 834
13 Florida State 764
14 Nebraska 704
15 Clemson 667
16 Oregon State 528
17 UCLA 505
18 Kent State 355
19 Northern Illinois 349
20 Utah State 274
21 Michigan 217
22 Northwestern 189
23 Texas 185
24 Oklahoma State 174
25 Boise State 145

There was no time to sulk Monday.

O'Brien said Ficken was back to work trying to get better. One suggestion for the right-footed Ficken was to concentrate on orienting his left foot so it's pointed and planted in the direction of where he wants to kick the ball.

O'Brien is sticking by Ficken, the only kicker listed on the depth chart. But when asked later, O'Brien also said the kicking job has been open competition each week this season won by Ficken.

He took over this season only when standout kicker Anthony Fera transferred to Texas after the NCAA's landmark sanctions on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. But Fera has been sidelined with the Longhorns so far this season with a groin injury - so Ficken, who had followed Fera on the depth chart - may have been kicking last week against Virginia regardless.

''Look, we should have scored touchdowns. It's a team sport,'' O'Brien said. ''We talk to our team about that every day, every week, every minute, about playing as a team. So, Sam's a big part of our team, and I'm glad we have him. And he's going to try to get better, and we're all going to try to get better.''

Ficken's bad day became the subject of rebukes so scornful from a few fans on Twitter that some teammates and other Penn State athletes past and present came to Ficken's defense.

WHO SETS THE CURVE?

Check out the FOXiest fans from schools across the country and tweet us your photo.

''Well, obviously I think it's absolutely ridiculous. Not just because it's a 19-year-old college kid,'' O'Brien said about the criticism of Ficken. ''At the end of the day, you know, these guys are really playing hard, giving great effort for us. To go on whatever, `space book' or `tweeter' or whatever is put ... on there is just absolutely ridiculous to me and very cowardly, to be honest with you. But that's just my opinion.''

O'Brien said the field-goal unit also needs to get better protection, snaps and holds on kicks.

O'Brien does like the way Penn State showed flashes of improvement in the new offense, including the 17-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 6:27 of the clock in the first quarter, culminating in Matt McGloin's 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Carter.

The big-play defense stuffed Virginia for 32 rushing yards on 25 carries and had three sacks including two by freshman end Deion Barnes.

It's just that more success in the red zone would have negated the need to rely so heavily on Ficken in the first place.

''We've just got to focus a little bit more in the game,'' receiver Allen Robinson said. ''Sometimes, you have to catch a few more balls, make a few better blocks. It's something that will come along.''

In five trips inside the 20 against Virginia, Penn State came away with just one touchdown and a field goal.

''As an offense, we've definitely been able to move the ball,'' Robinson said. ''We definitely have to finish drives ... We can't start off with a good drive and not score again until late in the fourth quarter.''

Injury concerns are also piling up on offense.

McGloin didn't throw Monday at practice to rest his sore right elbow, but O'Brien said the senior should be ready for Navy. The same can't be said for running backs Bill Belton (left ankle) and Derek Day (left shoulder), so Penn State may have its third starting tailback of the season in 6-foot-1 Curtis Dukes, a bruising, 245-pound junior.

Starting left tackle Donovan Smith (foot) and defensive end Pete Massaro (right shoulder) are also considered day-to-day.

Tagged: Virginia, Penn State, Texas, Bill O'Brien, Sam Ficken, Derek Day, Anthony Fera

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash