A kick to the gut for Penn State

Kicker Sam Ficken walks off field after miserable game.
Kicker Sam Ficken walks off field after miserable game. (AP)
Posted: September 10, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Some day-after observations from Penn State's 17-16 loss at Virginia:

* Sam Ficken just didn't have it on Saturday. Penn State's sophomore kicker missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked, leaving a total of 13 points on the table as the Nittany Lions fell to 0-2. At one point, Ficken missed a 20-yard kick, and later, a 42-yarder as time expired that would have won the game. Ficken is the starting kicker this season after the transfer of Anthony Fera to Texas. Last season, Fera was 11-for-11 on kicks inside 40 yards and 14-for-17 overall.

* Though Ficken had a nightmarish performance, the Lions had plenty of other opportunities to score that they could not capitalize on. Penn State's defense forced Virginia to turn the ball over four times. Penn State did not score on three of its five red-zone possessions. Wide receiver Allen Robinson could not handle a would-be touchdown catch in the third quarter.

* True freshman quarterback Steven Bench saw his first collegiate action in the second quarter when Matt McGloin was being treated for an injured elbow. There was some confusion among fans as to why redshirt sophomore Paul Jones did not take snaps in McGloin's absence. After the game, coach Bill O'Brien said Jones is getting looks as a tight end. He also will still practice with the quarterbacks. Bench went 2-for-7 for 12 yards; one of those incompletions was the Robinson drop in the end zone. He also had a 15-yard rush and picked up 18 total yards on the ground.

* It's fair to call O'Brien a gambler. He went for it on fourth down four times, converting three. One of those was a fake-punt direct snap to linebacker Glenn Carson that worked to perfection.

* McGloin's stat line was 19-for-35 for 197 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and the redshirt senior actually played better than that. He did a good job of evading pressure, making a few nifty passes and scrambles. His No. 1 wide receiver, Robinson, continued to impress despite some drops, as he grabbed 10 balls for 89 yards, including a sweet diving touchdown reception. It was the first time a Penn State receiver had 10 catches in a game since 2007.

* Penn State showed how strong its offense can be on the opening drive of the game. Penn State ran 17 plays for 75 yards and possessed the ball for 6 minutes, 27 seconds. The drive culminated in a McGloin's 8-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Carter.

* Mean Mike Mauti was all over the place. The redshirt senior linebacker led the team with nine tackles, forced a fumble on Virginia's first offensive play and recovered another one later. He also got a hand on a pass later in the game and broke up the play. Continue to expect big things out of Mauti.

* Next up for the Nits: vs. Navy Saturday at Beaver Stadium at 3:30.

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