Regular readers of The Rambles of Neil Monnery will have no idea who Sam Ficken is. As I’m kind I shall put you out of your misery. Sam Ficken is a student-athlete who attends Penn State University. He is the kicker on their football squad. He had what you might call a rather bad day on Saturday. When I say bad day I’m talking like he did a Ronnie Rosenthal but not just the once – several times during the game. You felt for him but despite the loss so much felt so right.
Ever since the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal engulfed Penn State and the NCAA decided to not bother with following their own rules football has been hard to watch. Not seeing the grumpy old man either up in the booth looking through those glasses (that he didn’t even need to wear any more) or prowling the sidelines is hard. There were no rolled-up khaki’s and no records to break. The future is now and last weeks defeat to Ohio was hard but deserved. That game was live over here on UK television so I could watch in glorious HD. This week in a late switch the game with Virginia was also on so I could watch on the TV instead of via the PC and the healing process started for me.
I like winning. Heck who doesn’t? However I also like competing and enjoying a proper match. That is what I got to do on Saturday. Penn State may have lost 17-16 to a Virginia side that they totally dominated but they competed and showed the heart that I want to see from my team. I got to stand up and yell about how great Michael Mauti is (seriously that kid is going to star on Sunday’s) and see a front seven dominate what was meant to be a very strong Virginia O-Line.
Matt McGloin even showed us that he was capable of running the new offensive system more than adequately. The O-Line looked more than decent despite losing four players to graduation last season. Yes there were downsides like our inability to stop the big 3rd down completions on Virginia’s final drive and the fact our secondary looks bad but they aren’t big issues in the grand scheme of things.
One thing I want more than anything from rooting for my team or favourite player (depending on whether it is a team sport or individual) is I want to see heart and a compelling game. On Saturday for the first time since we went into Ohio State with tom Bradley as Head Coach last year we saw that. These players have been put through the ringer and yet they chose to stay on when they all could’ve moved on and played elsewhere.
I once more found my voice and my passion for the Nittany Lions. I know Sam Ficken missed four Field Goals and had a +1 blocked but in this era of Penn State Football wins and losses don’t matter anyway. The team haven’t officially won a game since 1998 thanks to the NCAA. What matters football wise is they show what it still means to come and play for the university. Recruits will quite possibly shy away from Penn State until after the sanctions are lifted but if a team can still compete – on the road – at a pretty darn good opponent then it’ll show recruits that they can still do ok in coming to Penn State. If players like Michael Mauti can have great years and get drafted high in the NFL then the dark days might not be too dark nor too long.
Sadly for me Navy will be an internet job but luckily I have a good friend with a slingbox who gives me access so I will get to see the game. What I look for is heart and passion. These bunch of kids seem to have that and if Ted Roof can learn that blitzing on 3rd down might not be the greatest plan every single time then we might just get the first win since I started growing facial hair…
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