In case you missed it, yesterday we posted Part One of our Film Room thank you to seniors Adrian Amos, Ryan Keiser, Brad Bars, Tyrone Smith, Jesse Della Valle, and Bill Belton. Next up, our final five.
#97 Sam Ficken
If you need a story of perseverance, look no further. Sam Ficken assumed the kicking duties for Penn State in 2012 as a true sophomore because he was our only kicker left, after expected starter Anthony Fera transferred home to Texas. Sam stepped in, swung his leg, and started the year poorly, with an infamous day against Virginia.
No thanks to the idiotic behavior of Sam's twitter followers, he went back to work. He kicked a game winner against Wisconsin on Senior Day 2012, and, continuing into 2013, established the Penn State record for most consecutive field goals made (15). The kick that broke his streak? It was a 57-yarder against UCF at Beaver Stadium, that fell about 2 inches short. The next week, in a downpour against Kent State, Sam set the Beaver Stadium distance record, with a 54-yarder that would have been good from 60.
Sam's twice been named Academic All Big Ten, and will graduate with a degree in Finance this December, having served an internship on Wall Street this summer. Firmly planted within the Top 10 All Time Scorers list at Penn State, there's an argument for Sam Ficken as Penn State's best kicker ever.
I wonder what those moronic twitter followers would have to say now? Here's a game winner against UCF for good measure.
#86 CJ Olaniyan
Consistency. Reliability. Toughness. That's what Film Room thinks of when discussing the fifth-year senior from Warren, Michigan. CJ broke into the starting lineup in his 4th year in State College, and lead the Lions in sacks and tackles for loss. His break-through game came against his home state Wolverines, when he totaled 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble to key a 4OT thriller.
To a certain extent, it always felt like CJ meant as much or more off the field, than just Saturdays on it. When Larry Johnson left for the Buckeyes, CJ was the man with the camera in his face, telling everyone things would be fine. When the new coaching staff was introduced, CJ represented the players. But, the guy also made a lot of great plays for Dear Old State. Here's one from Wisconsin 2013.
#65 Miles Dieffenbach
For most Penn State fans, the first mental image of Miles Dieffenbach comes courtesy of ESPN's 2013 documentary. Miles sits with his linemates, taking the "salt challenge". Urschel shares a picture of chubby baby Miles on his phone with the world, while oversized adult Miles mimics the grin in the photo. And while stretching before practice, the camera catches Miles busting Bill O'Brien about his Slim Fast diet plan: "wow, what'd you lose, like 2 or 3 pounds?"
For Film Room, though, his star was born during the 2012 season. Then sophomore Miles was starting his 9th college game, in a "letdown" 11amCT contest at Purdue. The Boilermakers were pretty bad. Penn State had just lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State the week prior. And to top things off, the Penn State plane had a flat tire, and didn't get into West Lafayette until late.
Sitting on a 34-3 lead at the start of the 4th quarter, you'd think guys might be ready to run the clock, go through the motions, and get out of town. Not Miles. In the shot below, Matt McGloin scrambled right, and reversed course back towards left guard Dieffenbach. Miles gets up a head of steam, and decides to lead McGloin to the first down sticks.
They made it. McGloin cleared the first down marker, and headed out of bounds. But Dieffenbach is a large man, and he ran all this way, and he still hasn't had a chance to hit anyone. Sure, everyone else has already quit on the play. But those two Purdue defenders just standing by the Penn State sideline make an inviting target.
"Stand around, lay around", every high school coach everywhere said. Meaning, if you're going to stand around on the field, then you're soon going to be laying around, flat out. Miles just had too much momentum, and couldn't pull up in time. It wasn't really his fault. The Purdue defenders shouldn't have been standing there.
And, below is the icing on the cake. Miles launched the two Purdue guys into Charlie Fisher. Purdue, unbelievably, was the team flagged (thanks Big Ten refs!). Charlie was convinced it was the Boilermakers' fault. And Miles, I'm betting, was laughing back in the huddle.
#28 Zach Zwinak
Four minute Zach was his Film Room nickname. Want to move the chains while running the clock down to zero? Fire up number 28.
Here is a highly recruited, 5-star, #1 nationally ranked fullback, who, when the free agency period was announced, was 5th on the running back depth chart, 2nd on the fullback depth chart, and suddenly playing for a new coach known for his fondness of using tight ends as fullbacks, if he actually wanted to use a fullback at all.
Zach stuck. He had 3 carries for 2 yards in the first three games of 2012, while he worked his way up the depth chart. Against Northwestern in week 6, he had 28 carries for 121 bruising yards, including 10 straight touches (rushes and passes) on a defense-destroying drive in the fourth quarter that sparked Penn State's comeback victory. He finished 2012 with 1,000 yards on just 203 carries - 5 yards per rush, for a 230-lb fullback - including an eye-watering 36 carries for 179 yards in the season finale vs Wisconsin, who owned the #5 rush defense in the nation (before the game, not after).
Zach followed up his sophomore campaign with another 1,000 yard season as a junior (989, but so what). An undisclosed injury on the opening kickoff of this year's Ohio State injury cut his Penn State career short. That's all that sanctioned scholarships accomplishes, by the way.
But not before Zach took one across the goal line in Ireland, in typical Zwinak fashion. Let's fire up the diesel one more time.
Zach's hit cleanly by UCF's all-conference, 250-lb linebacker Terrance Plummer at about the 3.5 yard line. Plummer gets plowed over. Zach barely breaks stride. Then he plows through another pair of UCF defenders, reaches for the goalline, and puts his Nittany Lions on the scoreboard. That's some serious red zone rushing. Nothing but tough yards down there. And nobody gutted them out better than Zach.
#43 Mike Hull
He's the best linebacker in the Big Ten, bar none. Maybe all of college football. He has twice as many total tackles (121) as the -- forget that. Actually, he has more solo tackles (66), than our team's 2nd leading tackler has total tackles (Nyeem Wartman, 56). This is the #1 rushing defense in the nation, by the way, and #3 total defense. It's not some crap unit that he's doing this on.
According to Mike, he was in a car headed out of town in July 2012. But he turned the vehicle around. His teammates meant too much. Penn State meant too much. Puts it into perspective, doesn't it?
There are 100 different plays Film Room could stick here. The interception against Ohio State this year. The sack against Michigan. The fumble return for a TD against Navy in 2012. The play Film Room wanted was the punt block against Ohio State in 2012. So Film Room used Google Image Search, "Mike Hull gif". Boom. Apparently we Penn Staters aren't the only ones who remember this play, and the name Mike Hull.