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Dr. Saturday

Penn State’s Ficken has nightmare day in loss at Virginia

Dr. Saturday

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(Associated Press)

It's hard to imagine what Sam Ficken went through on Saturday.

Penn State had a chance to get its first post-scandal victory against Virginia, something the Nittany Lions fans, players and coaches - including first-year head coach Bill O'Brien - are undoubtedly craving.

But Ficken couldn't make a field goal. He missed four times - and also had an extra point blocked in the fourth quarter. Among the misses was a 20-yarder that sailed wide right, and a 42-yard effort with one-second left in the game that would have given the Nittany Lions the road win. Virginia held on 17-16.

It was the first road game for Penn State since former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in June. The frothy, teeming atmosphere in Charlottesville repeatedly reminded the Nittany Lions of the sins of their former assistant coach, creating a hostile atmosphere that seemed to revel in the woes of the visitors on Saturday afternoon.

[Also: Tulane safety stops breathing after hard hit, has to be revived by CPR]

Although this game was clearly there for the taking for O'Brien's team and it couldn't come away with the win, a few positives could be emerging for the Nittany Lions.

After last Saturday's embarrassing home defeat to Ohio, it was a better all-around effort from Penn State, which held an edge in total offense and time of possession. The negatives seemed to outweigh the positives, however. Ficken's inconsistent efforts coupled with consecutive drops by Allen Robinson on a key third-quarter drive and quarterback Matt McGloin being knocked out of the game in the second quarter helped doom the Nittany Lions. McGloin returned to the field in the third quarter with his right elbow wrapped but the offense sputtered and failed to find consistency.

In a twist of irony, the Nittany Lions were beaten by a late game drive highlighted by Virginia quarterback's Michael Rocco six-yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee. Rocco's father is Frankie Rocco Jr., who was a quarterback at Penn State from 1978-81.

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