Sam Ficken remains PSU kicker

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Sam Ficken sees the negative tweets. He hears the criticism. He feels the negative mood from some fans.

But Bill O'Brien said the kicker returned to work Monday and tried to forget -- at least as best he could -- about a performance that saw him make just 1-of-5 field goals and 1-of-2 extra points. He cared less about a sore kicking leg and more about improving. O'Brien joked the scholarship player must have practiced about 300 kicks.

"I think Ficken's going to fight through it and improve," O'Brien said.

The sophomore was still listed as the No. 1 kicker on the depth chart Tuesday, but Penn State's first-year coach said the position's been a week-to-week competition. Every week the coaching staff will chart accuracy and distance for each kicker.

But, every week, Ficken has practiced better than backups Matt Marcincin and Kevin DiSanto.

"We feel like he didn't have quite the leg (Anthony) Fera had, but he was No. 2 and he had a little stronger leg than Marcincin and DiSanto," O'Brien said. "We've stuck with Sam because we feel he gives us more range."

Ficken nailed a 32-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but his misses came from 40, 38, 20 and 42 yards. After his last kick, which floated wide left as the clock expired, some fans took to Twitter and message boards to express their frustration.

In different ways, through expletives and broken English, some told Ficken in not-so-nice ways that he wasn't very good. His teammates on Tuesday defended the kicker and expressed outrage over the criticism.

"A lot of people are criticizing him about missing the kicks," wideout Allen Robinson said, "but a lot of people couldn't even be in that situation to kick the ball. He's a 19-year-old student ... and this is something he realized he's going to have to go through with fans."

O'Brien had some stronger words for those detractors.

"Obviously, I think it's absolutely ridiculous," he said. "Not just because it's a 19-year-old college kid; it's because it's anonymous in some ways and in some ways it's not. But at the end of the day, these guys are really playing hard, giving great effort for people to go on Spacebook and Tweeter and put up stuff that is absolutely ridiculous and very cowardly, to be honest with you."

Ficken has not been made available to the media since his four misses, but he took to Twitter immediately after the game to thank his teammates, friends and fans for supporting him.

His last post came Monday, on a retweet: "Rise above hate."