Saturday, August 30, 2014

Penn State Beats Central Florida On Leg of Sam Ficken As Time Expires

     Two years ago Sam Ficken missed an extra point along with four field goals, including one as time expired that would have won the game for Penn State against Virginia. Flash forward to 2014, Sam Ficken goes 4 for 4 in Penn State's season opener against Central Florida, including a game winner as time expired.

     James Franklin starts his coaching career at Penn State on the right foot (which literally included Sam Ficken's) winning in his debut with the Nittany Lions. Penn State forced the Knights to a three and out on their first possession, and the Nittany Lions followed that up with scoring a touchdown on their first offensive possession when Zach Zwinak scored from one yard out. (Penn State offensive drive was originally halted, but a personal foul roughing the kicker penalty kept possession in the hands of the Nittany Lions.) Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg connected with redshirt wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton for a 44 yard pick up that helped set up Zwinak's touchdown. Hamilton finished the day with 11 receptions for 165 yards. Central Florida's Jordan Akins returned the ensuing kickoff all the way down to the PSU 23.

     Despite having good field position, Central Florida's running back Dontravious Wilson was stuffed on consecutive plays, forcing a 4th & Goal from the one yard line. The Nittany Lions defense completed its goal line stand after forcing quarterback Pete DiNovo out of the pocket, throwing the ball out of bounds.

     Christian Hackenberg, who became the first Penn State quarterback ever to throw for 400+ passing yards in a single game ( 32/47 454 yards) was picked off by Jacoby Glenn on the ensuing drive, and the Knights came away with a field goal to cut the Nittany Lions lead to four. Penn State would reclaim its initial seven point lead after going on a 15 plays 72 yard drive, and would headed into halftime with a10-3 lead.

     After another field goal put Penn State up 13-3, Central Florida head coach George O'Leary
decided to make a change at quarterback with Justin Holman. Holman wasted no time at all, connecting with Breshad Perriman for a 50 yard hook up. Three plays later, Holman punched it in the endzone and cut the Nittany Lions lead to three. But again, Hackenberg showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country when he connected with Geno Lewis (8 receptions 173 yards) for a 79 yard touchdown, quickly putting Penn State back up by 10. However, Justin Holman and the Knights refused to go away.

     After a big 46 yard completion, (as well as an additional personal foul that moved the ball half the distance to the goal) Holman and the Knights drove the ball all the way down to the PSU one. But two consecutive false starts pushed Central Florida back 10 yards and it looked as if PSU would escape maximum damage and force the Knights to a field goal attempt. Holman remained hot however and hit Josh Reese on a slant for a touchdown once more. After juggling of possession due to turnovers by both teams, Penn State added a field goal to increase the Nittany Lions lead to six.

    With the game on the line and a 4th & 10 situation , Justin Holman came up big again, finding Josh Reese for a 37 yard gain. The very next play, Holman called his own number as he walked on into the endzone to give the Knights their first lead of the game with 1:13 remaining.

     With three timeouts and starting possession on their own 26, Penn State picked up seven yards before facing a 4th & 3 with the game on the line once more. Just like Holman, Hackenberg was able to keep the drive alive for the Nittany Lions, using his feet to pick up eight yards. After passes to both Bill Belton and Geno Lewis picked up an additional 22 yards, Penn State finally called its first timeout of the half with 17 seconds remaining. Immediately after the timeout, Hackenberg would hook up with Lewis again for another 18 yards, putting Penn State in position to win the game at the Knight's 19 yard line that set up a field goal attempt for Sam Ficken. After all the previous hardships Ficken had faced in the past two years, he was able to redeem himself and connected from 36 yards out and give Penn State a 26-24 victory of Central Florida.

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