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Penn State notebook: Tough times helped harden kicker Ficken

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, November 4, 2014 9:21 p.m
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Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Penn State kicker Sam Ficken (97) kicks a 25-yard field goal during the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in University Park.

Though he swore it was a coincidence he said it on Election Day, Penn State coach James Franklin asserted during his weekly news conference, “Right now, (Sam) Ficken could run for mayor of State College.”

“Everybody loves him,” Franklin said of the Nittany Lions’ kicker who was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.

Twenty-six months ago, that was far from the case. Ficken was the subject of scorn from Penn State fans — complete with Twitter death threats — after he missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked in a 17-16 loss at Virginia on Sept. 8, 2012.

As Ficken’s PSU career enters its final month on an upswing, he said Tuesday that miserable outing in his second career game made him the kicker he is today. Ficken has made 17 of 19 field goals and 17 of 17 extra-point attempts this season. He is No. 3 nationally in field goals per game and 10th in accuracy at 89.5 percent.

“To go through that (2012 Virginia) experience, it made me work extremely hard to get where I wanted to be,” Ficken said. “Also, that experience enabled me to work with some really great people, Robbie Gould, especially. Had I not done that, I don’t know if he would have personally reached out to me to the point where I feel so comfortable with my fundamentals now.”

A Penn State alum, Gould became an All-Pro kicker for the Chicago Bears after some struggles in college.

No O-line news

Franklin said “not a whole lot has really changed” concerning the statuses of the veteran left side of his offensive line. Tackle Donovan Smith did not play against Maryland last Saturday, and guard Miles Dieffenbach has yet to make his season debut following a torn ACL in the spring.

“We’re hopeful that Donovan will have the opportunity to play,” Franklin said of this coming Saturday at Indiana. “But I don’t know that.”

Franklin indicated Smith would have to be cleared to make it through a practice before he would play in a game.

As for Dieffenbach, Franklin said: “We were hoping maybe a month ago that we would have had him last week; that didn’t happen, so we’re hopeful that maybe we’ll get him this week.”

The official depth chart did not include Dieffenbach and had “OR”s inserted at the starting spots that reflected the lineup PSU used with Smith unavailable last week. Center Angelo Mangiro moved to right tackle, where Andrew Nelson was bumped from to the left side against Maryland.

Keiser update

Franklin said he speaks to the mother and wife of hospitalized safety Ryan Keiser regularly over the past week since he underwent multiple bowel surgeries following a cracked rib.

“He is doing extremely well, from everything that we’re told,” Franklin said.

Fast freshmen

Franklin declared a trio of true freshman defensive backs the fastest three players on the team: Safety Troy Apke and cornerbacks Christian Campbell and Grant Haley.

Mt. Lebanon native Apke made his debut last week, playing on special teams.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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