Ideally, Sam Ficken wouldn't attempt anything longer than an extra point. That's the worst part of having a great kicker--no matter how consistent he is, you sincerely hope you'll never have to use him.
But this offense, and this season, have been anything but ideal, and Penn State's had to rely on Ficken when drive after drive inevitably stalls outside the end zone. Plenty, even, outside the red zone. And yet, the Nittany Lions haven't had to resort to fourth-down heroics, because they've got the right leg of Sam Ficken to bail them out.
Ficken, with his four kicks Saturday, is now 17-19 on the season; the two misses were both blocked. Every single time Sam Ficken has gotten the ball up in the air and past the line of scrimmage, it has crossed through the uprights. And yesterday, there were few cheap shots--in drilling attempts of 46, 47, and 48 yards, each of which was perfectly true, right down the middle, and good with plenty of room to spare--Ficken has finally put the horrors of 2012 to rest. There will be no more Virginias, not in the three (or maybe four) games Ficken has left in the Blue and White.
$am Ficken, indeed.
Next year, we'll have to start this cycle all over again. We can only hope that whoever succeeds Sam Ficken one day lives up to his legacy.
Bob Shoop -- If Dan hadn't picked Shoop last week, I probably would've gone with the defensive coordinator as this week's MVP. When it wasn't being saddled with horrible field position, Penn State's defense was as dominant as it's been all season. C.J. Brown was sacked six times and under pressure virtually every time he dropped back. Stefon Diggs was bottled up and wrapped up quickly when he got his touches. Maryland didn't cross the 200-yard mark, they punted eleven times, and they turned it over twice. And it was such a team effort that highlighting the man who drew up the schemes seems only fitting.
Jesse James -- It doesn't seem like five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown should be something to celebrate, especially for someone as talented as James, but given his own issues with the drops and John Donovan's horrible misuse, this was an encouraging performance. James looked like his old, BOB-driven self--catching everything thrown to him, running over defenders, and bringing in a back corner fade pass for a score so perfectly that you wonder why the hell Donovan's ever bothered calling those for receivers half a foot shorter.
Marcus Allen -- In two starts, the freshman has already proven just as able, if not moreso, than Ryan Keiser. Excellent in run support and competent playing center field, Allen looks like the heir apparent to Adrian Amos. He committed a stupid late hit penalty that helped set up a Maryland score, but there aren't too many safeties who will lead their team in tackles, break up a pass, and record a sack. In Bob Shoop's defense, which brings pressure from every direction, he'll have a chance to truly excel over the next few years.