Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Best and worst of 2012: Penn State
By Brian Bennett
Our look at the best moment and worst moment for each Big Ten team in 2012 continues now with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Best moment: A win for the seniors
The 2012 Penn State senior class earned a honored place in team history by helping keep the program together through unimaginably trying times. And the seniors got the sendoff they deserved in the Nov. 24 finale against Wisconsin. There was drama throughout. The school put "2012" up on the Beaver Stadium facade along with other undefeated and championship teams. The players wore No. 42 on their helmets to pay tribute to injured linebacker Michael Mauti. Penn State fell behind early, rallied to take the lead and then saw the Badgers tie it up at 21 with just 18 seconds left in regulation. But the Nittany Lions weren't going to lose on this day. Sam Ficken hit a 37-yard field goal in overtime, and the Badgers missed their overtime field goal attempt as Penn State players rushed the field. "This is a very special team because of the players and because of these seniors," coach Bill O'Brien said afterward. And they got a special ending.
Worst moment: Virginia is not for Lions
All of the doom and gloom predictions for Penn State's season seemed to be coming true in Week 2. After losing the opener at home to Ohio, the Nittany Lions traveled to Virginia and played very well. They led 16-10 in the fourth quarter but saw the Cavaliers score the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 left. Ficken missed four of five field goals -- including a 42-yarder at the end of the game -- and an extra point as Penn State lost despite winning the turnover battle 4-0. The 0-2 start had many wondering whether the team would collapse under the weight of all the on- and off-field pressure. Luckily, the seniors wouldn't let that happen, and Penn State would go on to win eight of its final 10, with Ficken playing the hero in the last one.