Lion seniors go out in style
It it somehow fitting that the most maligned of Nittany Lions in this strange journey that was the 2012 season, wins the final game of the year in overtime.
Kicker Sam Ficken, who missed four of five field goals and an extra point in the early season loss to Virginia, sneaked a 36-yard field goal inside the left upright in the first overtime to stake the Lions to a 24-21 lead that would hold up when Wisconsin’s kicker hooked a 45-yard attempt left.
Thus, Penn State’s senior class, who hung with their school through the most difficult of circumstances, go out winners on an emotional senior day at Beaver Staduim. The Lions beat Wisconsin, though the Badgers can console themselves knowing they are headed to the Big Ten Championship game. Penn State finished the first of its four post season-less seasons at 8-4.
That’s a pretty good record, considering the team’s best runner, receiver, and the guy who both kicked and punted bolted when the NCAA imposed harsh sanctions.
Matt McGloin became a quarterback few thought possible under the expert tutelage of Bill O’Brien. Fullback Zach Zwinak rose from the bowels of the depth chart to run for a thousand yards. Allen Robinson became a force at receiver, and a group of tight ends showed O’Brien’s success with New England was no fluke.
On defense, Jordan Hill drew acclaim as one of the best defensive tackles in the country. Lineback U. is alive and well with Gerald Hodges and the emotional leader of the team, Michael Mauti, who had to help coach rather than play in this final game due to yet another ACL injury. He and fullback Michael Zordich kept this team together when the sanctions hit.
Bill O’Brien, too, should be mentioned as one of the top coaches in the country, for taking a less than superbly talented crew, working them hard, getting them to buy into a new system, and getting the most out of them. All this while moving the football program past the Sandusky scandal, while honoring Joe Paterno’s football legacy in the process.
This team was put on the ring of honor at Beaver Stadium today, a place previously reserved only for squads that went undefeated, won a national title, or a conference championship.
I can’t imagine anyone doubts this group belongs there.