It's not secret that this season wasn't all roses for Penn State Football. There were plenty of struggles, plenty of mistakes and plenty of mind-boggling decisions. However, even the most disappointing seasons have their bright spots.
Penn State Football's 2014 season had many bright spots. There was James Franklin's first game as the head coach of the Nittany Lions. There was the Lions' 4-0 start, allowing Franklin to become the first head coach in Penn State history to start off with such a record. There was Sam Ficken's game winning kick to send the team to victory in Dublin, Ireland against UCF. There was Gary Nova's dance with the devil beyond the line of scrimmage, and there was Bill Belton's touchdown run on an inside draw play. There was the electric atmosphere and excitement of the fourth quarter against Ohio State. There was defensive explosion against Temple. There was Akeel Lynch's beastmode run against Boston College. There was Chris Godwin's break out game and long touchdown catch in Yankee Stadium. Even in a season that included losses to Maryland, Northwestern and Illinois, there were still moments to celebrate.
Of course, there was one moment that stood out for this author. That, of course, was Sam Ficken's game winning extra point in the Pinstripe Bowl.
I'll have much more on Sam Ficken and his Penn State career in the coming months, but his performance in the Pinstripe Bowl truly did epitomize how far he came in three years, and how much he grew as a player and a leader. There was no one who had more nightmares about the Virginia game than Sam Ficken. Everyone knows the story. Four missed field goals, one missed extra point and a one point loss. Bill O'Brien developed an even greater affinity for taking his chances on fourth down, and Sam was thought of as an afterthought and a last resort. As the season went on though, he gradually earned that trust back. He started playing like the kicker he was capable of being, and brought the season to its satisfying conclusion by hitting the game winner against Wisconsin.
2013 was primed to be a big season for Ficken, and started out that way. An injury that he played through for the second half of the season threw some shade on his school record 15 straight field goals made, but he still enjoyed a wonderful season. 2014 saw Ficken become a team co-captain, and become a model of consistency for a team that struggled offensively in a way that Nittany Lion fans hadn't seen since 2004. He had some kicks blocked, didn't hit his kickoffs as well as he could have, and had one freak attempt that knuckled away thanks to a poor snap and hold, but Ficken was exactly what his team needed him to be.
It was for that reason, that I, and most others, never doubted for a second that he would hit that 45 yard field goal to send the game into overtime against Boston College. I was already thinking about overtime when he lined up the kick. And while this post is about our favorite Penn State moments, not the worst for another team, is there any greater justice/irony than Ficken winning a game for the Nittany Lions after an opposing kicker failed his team? We, and Ficken, know what Boston College is feeling, but they'll persevere. Just like Sam did. To create the most satisfying, and most powerful moment for the 2014 Penn State Nittany Lions.
But I don't know how you think. You might disagree. So tell me, readers, what was your favorite moment from the 2014 Penn State Football team's season? Why?