Today is the fifth anniversary of Penn State’s crippling loss to Virginia on the road in the 2012 season. On that day coach Bill O’Brien trotted out junior kicker Sam Ficken for eight total kicks: five field goals and three extra points. Three of them were made.
On September 8th, 2012, the Penn State program took a fickday. Conditions weren’t perfect, but even in ideal weather, it seemed the gods had conspired to make the Nittany Pride suffer that day.
To offer a sacrifice to those gods, and wish away such fate on any of the conference’s current bon pied, we’ve ranked Ficken’s worst kicks.
- PATty Cake
While a missed extra point in a one-point loss may strike you as crucially important, and therefore a high crime, the flaws of this kick do not fall on Ficken. As the commentator points out, this miss is the fault of penetration by a Virginia end, who puts his hand exactly where it needs to be to slap this attempt out of the sky.
(If there is tragedy to be found in this kick, it’s that it besmirches the touchdown, a beauty of a layout grab by Allen Robinson.)
Of course, you should never miss an extra point. But this kick at least looks like it would have gone in without interference, which is more than can be said for…
- “Anthony Fera Woulda Made That”
The fourth-least bad of these misses is the first field goal attempt. It was early in the game, it was from 40 out; Ficken apologists could even argue that it came after an ugly sack of McGloin that moved the yardsticks back. In short (or perhaps wide), momentum was moving in the wrong direction.
The kick itself is a pull from the left hash. At no point when it comes off his foot does it have a prayer of going in. But at least it has some arc on it, and the stakes were low. Presumably Mike Patrick is correct in his subtle implication that Anthony Fera, one of Penn State’s many transfer/traitors, would probably have made this kick.
- Straight Like an Error
This is a disgusting attempt at a kick. If it hadn’t been so early in the game, this 38-yard stillbirth from the right hash (after the first miss) would top the list. It is pushed ghastly far right, and actually seems to bend further right as it sails. It misses so far it almost goes wide of the netting. It’s as though Ficken is trying to hit someone in the crowd. Just before the snap, Ficken even noticeably sighs, the sigh of a man who knows how it all ends.
Watch it chink off the lower left area of the net and piddle sadly out of view.
The crowd’s roar at this terrible, terrible kick is practically surprised, even thankful. They have never seen a kick so bad; so it can be said that their enthusiasm is having an effect.
Perversely, this kick, had it been taken from the No. 4’s spot, would have gone in—and vice versa.
Cuck Sam Kicken for this fick.
- Grapefruit Knife in the Back
Ficken gaffes this functional extra point from the right hash with a grapefruit-knife-shaped trajectory that ranks with the solar eclipse as harmful to one’s eyes.
Kickers much, much worse than Sam Ficken could probably go 30/30 from this spot without stopping for a water break. The natural spin of a fucking football if you duck-hook it off your foot carries this kick between the goalposts.
For Sam Ficken to miss this kick was the surest sign something had gone horribly wrong in his mind; his hands grab his facemask in a look of horror. This is a blockage of immense proportions, a tumor of an attempt, a hairy, festering wart on the ass of Penn State Football that can never be removed.
“Are you kidding?” Mike Patrick yells. We are, and we are not.
- “He Missed It”
This is not Sam Ficken’s worst kick of the day. Yet it loses Penn State the game. And the sin of missing the game winner, after all Ficken had done to destroy his team’s chances, is simply, profoundly awful.
Depending how you feel about Bill O’Brien, it either took balls of steel or a vacant skull to trot out a kicker who’d gone one for four on field goals and one for two on extra points to hit your game winner. Supposing he pulls Ficken and the backup misses? Then the fanbase wonders to themselves, that’s the one Ficken would have hit.
In the end, O’Brien gives Ficken the opportunity to redeem himself. The spot on this kick is ideal. It’s a 43-yarder straight down the middle with no wind…
“And he missed it.”
“Sam did not lose us this game whatsoever,” O’Brien would offer in postgame comments. Yet unless the man is capable of profound denial, somewhere in his mind, he knew the truth was otherwise.
Epilogue: In his next game, Ficken would go on to neither make nor attempt any field goals, while going four for five on extra points, bricking his third attempt in a 34-7 win.