Sam Ficken

The College Football Oscars go to…

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Oh, you thought awards season was over for college football? Well, yeah, it is, but that does not mean we cannot have a little more fun during what is typically a slow time, right?

In honor of the Academy Awards tonight, here are some selections for College Football Academy Awards. Feel free to share your own College Football Oscar winners or additional nominations in the comments section below.

Best Picture: The College Football Playoff

It is not all that often the year’s biggest box office winner takes home the golden statue. In this case, the College Football Playoff did just that with massive TV ratings, the biggest story of the season and dramatic flair on the field with a stellar cast, team of directors, production team, original score and more. Simply put, it was the complete package. Just for good measure, it created its own gold trophy too.

Best Directing: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

The 2014 season has already been regarded by many as his best coaching performance of his career. After losing a potential Heisman candidate quarterback in Braxton Miller before the season started, Urban Meyer managed to put together a championship season few saw coming midway through September.

Honorable mentions: Gary Patterson, Art Briles, Dan Mullen

Best Screenplay: Ole Miss and Mississippi State

Not all great stories end with a happy ending. Ole Miss and Mississippi State each had their moments in the spotlight this season and captivated the college football world in the process. The Bulldogs climbed to No. 1 in the polls and Ole Miss upset Alabama in one of the best seasons of college football in the state of Mississippi in a long time. You really could not script a story like it.

Honorable mention: TCU

Best Drama: Florida State

No team delivered drama the way Florida State did in 2014. The Seminoles entered the season as defending national champions and gave fans reason to live on the edge of their seats from start to finish. No matter the situation, Florida State managed to come up with a win until running into Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Best Comedy: This Frank Beamer Moment

Virginia Tech beat eventual national champion Ohio State in 2014, but this moment from Frank Beamer may have been the funniest of the season.

Frank Beamer 0-0

Best Performance in a Foreign Feature: Sam Ficken, Penn State

Penn State opened the 2014 season abroad with a contest against defending American Athletic Conference champion UCF in Ireland. Kicker Sam Ficken gave the Nittany Lions a last-second victory with a 36-yard field goal as time expired for a 26-24 win. Ficken was four-for-four on field goal attempts (and two-for-two on extra point attempts) in the season-opening win across the Atlantic Ocean.

Best Documentary: “Brian And The Boz”

ESPN added a couple of new documentaries to its 30 for 30 series that would be of interest to college football fans. The feature on former Oklahoma Sooners standout Brian Bosworth was a good one, but you could not go worn with “Rand University,” which profiled the early days of Randy Moss.

Best Original Score: “The Victors,” Michigan

Michigan may not have had much to celebrate in 2014, but “The Victors” remains among the best of the best when it comes to college foght songs. Why some Michigan students feel a need for a new fight song is beyond me.

Best Original Song: Anything but “Centuries”

You heard it all season long during commercials and in-game promos and possibly more. Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” was dumped on you the viewer from start to finish last season by ESPN to tie into the College Football Playoff. Here’s to a new season, when another song will undoubtedly be crammed down our ears all season long.

Best Costume Design: Nike and Oregon

Oregon v Oregon State
Oregon v Oregon State

Sure, I may be more of a traditionalist when it comes to uniforms, but you have to hand it to Oregon and Nike. The pair continues to set the standard for modern day uniform design that many attempt to emulate. The combo of Nike and Oregon has been named the top uniform by many outlets including USA Today and Bleacher Report.

Best Visual Effects: Army-Navy Game Pregame Card Stunt

The pageantry surrounding the traditional Army-Navy Game is unrivaled in college football even by the bets of rivalries, but the pregame card stunt is often one of the more stunning visuals seen during the college football season and pictures can only do so much justice.

Helmet stickers to The Academy: Reddit, Twitter

Penn State kicker Sam Ficken and the Derek Jeter connection

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Penn State kicker Sam Ficken has been through plenty of ups and downs during his time in State College. A kicker who got off to a poor start as Penn State’s kicker turned things around in a big way as he became one of the most reliable kickers in the nation. His career at Penn State could not have ended in a more perfect way.

On Saturday, Ficken played his final game as a Nittany Lion. He did so by ending his career with a walk-off extra point in Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl, giving Penn State a wild 31-30 victory over Boston College in overtime. As Ficken’s last point-after attempt went through the uprights, it was soon learned Ficken was using the locker of former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Comparing football players to baseball players is often a silly thing to do, unless they happen to be Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, but the narrative was too good to avoid for many.

Like Jeter, Ficken was a team captain. Like Ficken, Jeter recorded a game-winning walk-off play in his final at-bat in Yankee Stadium. The narrative can sometimes write itself and go overboard, but perhaps there was a small bit of foreshadowing written in Jeter’s final at-bat in a home Yankees uniform. Who could forget the iconic photo of Jeter leaping into the air in celebration following the game-winning hit against the Baltimore Orioles on September 25, 2014?

Take another look at that photo, and you will see some perfectly executed product placement for the Big Ten tat was put up in Yankee Stadium during the baseball season due to the conference’s expansion and additions of Rutgers and Maryland.

Jim Delany could not have planned that any better, but sometimes the narrative just finds a way to write itself.

Hackenberg grows up in big way as Penn State tanks Wisconsin

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Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is known for putting his quarterbacks to the test. This afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin freshman Christian Hackenberg aced his final exam for the season in a resounding way. Hackenberg passed for 339 yards and four touchdowns as Penn State (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) upset No. 15 Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) in a 31-24.

Penn State had to hang on to this one though, and they responded well. After seeing a 31-14 lead whittled away to a seven-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, Penn State was faced with a 3rd and 9 after the eighth false start penalty on the offensive line. Rather than try to pass, Penn State kept it on the ground with Wisconsin out of timeouts. A draw play to Zach Zwinak worked beautifully with a 61-yard run up the middle to keep the drive alive and to run some more clock off. Penn State managed to get the game clock down to 35 seconds before asking Sam Ficken to convert a 31-yard field goal, which he missed. That left Wisconsin with just 31 seconds to drive the length of the field. The defense held on with a late stand despite the Badgers moving down field quickly. Ryan Keiser picked off a deep pass to the end zone to clinch the victory.

Penn State’s Allen Robinson turned in another fine performance with 122 yards on nine receptions. Eugene Lewis scored two touchdowns and added 91 yards to compliment Robinson’s day. Wisconsin receiver Jared Abrbederis led the Badgers with 114 yards.

Penn State did a great job holding down Wisconsin’s running game. Melvin Gordon and James White were never able to bust any big runs against a Penn State defense that figured to be vulnerable against the run. Wisconsin tried to get Joel Stave to lead the charge in the passing game but that often backfired on the Badgers.

The loss for Wisconsin takes the Badgers out of the conversation for a BCS at-large invite. Much of the week had centered on a debate between Wisconsin and Michigan State as the potential second Big Ten team in the BCS, but that debate has been silenced. Wisconsin had played in three straight Rose Bowls and had a decent argument to be considered for an at-large bid this season if there was an opening. Wisconsin will still be playing in a January 1 bowl game in the Big Ten line-up and should be a tough opponent for whatever team they get paired up with.

Penn State’s season is over of course despite a second straight winning season under O’Brien. This marks the completion of the second of four seasons serving a postseason ban for the Nittany Lions. O’Brien is now 3-2 against top 25 teams in his short coaching career. Penn State had lost eight straight games against ranked opponents prior to the hiring of O’Brien.

Penn State hands Michigan first loss in fourth overtime

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I had to rewrite this game story a few times. You see, Michigan had a ten point lead midway through the fourth quarter and Penn State’s offense was looking to be out of steam. But then, almost out of nowhere it seemed, Penn State pulled an 80-yard touchdown drive with 50 seconds to play in regulation with no timeouts to use. The score tied the game at 34-34 but Michigan still had a chance to sneak out of State College with a win, but a 52-yard attempt by Brendan Gibbons in the final seconds of the game fell short, which ended up sending the game in to overtime. Things really started to get crazy after that.

Penn State served Michigan their first loss of the season, with Bill Belton scoring the game-winning touchdown in the fourth overtime for a 43-40 victory that 107,000 fans will not soon forget. Belton’s touchdown was the only time in four overtimes the ball crossed a goal line. Michigan had their chances to secure another tight victory this season, but a mixture of special teams failures and missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Wolverines.

In the first overtime Penn State kicker Sam Ficken missed a 40-yard attempt, but Michigan was unable to capitalize because the Nittany Lions special teams unit blocked a 40-yard attempt set up by conservative play calling. Michigan got as close as the eight yard line to open the second overtime, setting Gibbons up for a 25-yard field goal. Penn State would answer with a 36-yard kick from Ficken to force a third overtime.

The third overtime started ominously for Penn State when Allen Robinson fumbled the first play of the third overtime. On an end-around play, Robinson never gained control of a handoff from Penn State’s freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The ball dropped loose in the back field and Michigan defensive lineman Frank Clark pounced on the ball to turn the game over to Michigan’s offense with a golden opportunity to walk out of Beaver Stadium with their first win against the Nittany Lions since 2007. But from 33 yards back, Gibbons had his kick fly left of the goal post despite being set up in the middle of the field. Yes, this game would need a fourth overtime and it was becoming clear this one was not going to be decided by special teams.

the fourth overtime did not go well for Michigan’s offense. Two incomplete passes by Devin Gardner failed to move the football forward, and a delay of game put Michigan back on the 30-yard line. A seven-yard run by Gardner set Gibbons up for a 40-yard attempt, which was good for a 40-37 lead before Penn State got their chance. Penn State relied on the running game to start moving the football forward, with Belton carrying the load. Belton had taken over in the backfield as the primary rusher after Zach Zwinak‘s struggles became a problem. Belton carried the football three times to put Penn State in a fourth and one. Rather than kick and move to a fifth overtime, Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien kept his offense on the field to pick up the first down. It worked, with Belton showing patience to pick up a couple of extra yards. After a pass interference call against Michigan in the end zone gave Penn State a free first down, Belton cashed in with a run to the left side of the field and nothing but open room from two yards out. The touchdown by Belton clinched the win for Penn State and sent Michigan home regretting giving Penn State a shot at this one.

Michigan’s defense had done a good job in the second half, which started with a fumble returned for a touchdown on Penn State’s first play of the second half. The return cut Penn State’s lead to 21-17 and the Wolverines took a 27-24 lead in to the fourth quarter. A 37-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to tightend Devin Funchess caught Penn State without a safety on the field and a linebacker chasing down field well out of position. It was a play like that which seemed to show how Penn State’s depth issues were starting to hurt them. But this Penn State team found a way to bounce back when the going got tough, something that eluded them a week ago in Bloomington, Indiana. Penn State gets all sorts of credit for coming back the way they did time and time again, but there are some real concerns about Michigan going forward now.

Michigan once again struggled in a game they probably should have won without much of a problem. The road woes continued for Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, and now the Wolverines are left scratching their heads instead of celebrating a 6-0 start. Can Michigan still come back and make a run for Indianapolis, the site of the Big Ten championship game? Absolutely, because nobody in the Big Ten’s Legends Division is running away with anything. Northwestern lost to Wisconsin and Michigan still has games against the Wildcats, Michigan State and Nebraska ahead of them before getting to Ohio State.