Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Penn State's Jordan Hill, Sam Ficken honored by Big Ten

It was a fitting finish for each player -- for two entirely separate reasons.

Penn State's Jordan Hill, Sam Ficken honored by Big Ten

Penn State kicker Sam Ficken. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
Penn State kicker Sam Ficken. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

It was a fitting finish for each player -- for two entirely separate reasons.

In the final week of the Big Ten season, senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Week while sophomore kicker Sam Ficken was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

For Hill, the honor solidifies a standout senior campaign. The 6-foot-1, 292-pound NFL prospect tallied a career-high 12 tackles in Penn State's overtime finale against Wisconsin. With linebacker Mike Mauti sidelined with a knee injury, Hill was a defensive sparkplug when the Nittany Lions needed it most - eight of Hill's tackles came in the fourth quarter or overtime.

For Ficken, the honor caps off a whirlwind season with a sense of validation. For the better part of this fall, the 19-year-old was the scapegoat for Penn State's early season struggles, including his 1-for-5 performance in the one-point loss against Virginia. Ficken began the season 2-for-8.

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But the sophomore -- with the help of new mentor Robbie Gould, a former PSU star and NFL standout -- steadly got better. Gould helped Ficken with his technique. Ficken's tight circle of family and friends helped him with his psyche. And before you could say "Fickened," the Indiana native finished the season with a 10-straight field goals.

Against the Badgers, Ficken was 3-for-3 on field goals, including a 37-yarder in overtime to seal an emotional finale.

-Emily Kaplan

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About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 30 years, covering covering Penn State football, Villanova basketball and other college sports, along with golf and the Penn Relays. This is his seventh season on The Inquirer’s Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976-84.

Joining Joe this season is Erin McCarthy, an intern for The Inquirer and a junior at Penn State majoring in print and digital journalism. This is Erin's first season on the Penn State football beat. She previously spent two summers as an Inquirer summer intern on the Pennsylvania and South Jersey desks. She is also an editor for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A Delaware County native, Erin graduated from Episcopal Academy.

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Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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