Sam Ficken using UVa game as motivation

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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Sam Ficken stared at the white field goal posts at Virginia for a few moments.

He unbuckled his chin strip and watched while fans dressed in orange hugged and jumped after his fourth missed field goal sealed the Cavaliers' win. Tight end Matt Lehman patted him on the helmet as if to signify, "Hey, it's OK." But Ficken just slowly walked off the field, his shoulders slightly drooped.

[+] EnlargeSam Ficken
AP Photo/Andrew ShurtleffPlace-kicker Sam Ficken walks off the field dejected after missing a last-second field goal at Virginia.
On Saturday, the first time he addressed the media since that game, he said he couldn't forget those few moments stained in time. The clock read just one second, but Ficken still thinks about it.

But then again, he doesn't want to forget. He makes sure he won't forget.

He packed away a game program from that 17-16 loss and tacked it onto his bedroom wall. Nearly every day, he said, he'll glance at that magazine -- sometimes in morning, sometimes before bed -- and remember.

"You don't want to make the same mistake twice, so that's my main sense in that," Ficken said. "The overall feeling of me missing kicks, that's the part that I'm forgetting. I missed them, it's over. I'm not getting them back, so why freak over that?"

Ficken said words couldn't describe his disappointment on the flight home. He felt discouraged, depressed and angry at himself.

He glanced at disparaging tweets and heard the negative chatter. But he focused on the support.

"Everyone that reached out to me directly has been extremely positive," Ficken said. "It's, 'Hey, we're with you. It's a tough time but keep your head up. We're behind you; we support you.'"

The sophomore kicker converted all his short kicks against Temple. He nailed a 21-yard FG and made sure to make all three of the extra points.

It wasn't an impressive kicking performance, but it was mistake-free. It was a start. It was a game he could build from.

"I talk to Sam all the time," coach Bill O'Brien said earlier this week. "I have belief in Sam."

Ficken said he's since focused more on the position of his plant leg, which usually indicates the accuracy, much like a followthrough in golf. And like a golfer who might be stuck in a slump, Ficken's practicing more than ever.

Place-kickers normally attempt about 50 kicks a day. Ficken is now up to 70 or 80.

"I've been kicking a lot more than I have before that game, but I felt like I had to," Ficken said. "When you miss four field goals, you got to correct something. Something's off."

Ficken smiled Saturday when he talked about his new love of ice baths and hot tubs. He was trying to focus on the positives because, he said, he can't change the past -- but he can change his performance in the future.

"Hopefully," he said, "the worst is behind me."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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