5:55 PM PDT, September 8, 2012
The NCAA's plan to cripple Penn State as it humiliates innocent players could not be working out better.
The NCAA defeated Penn State, 17-16, on Saturday to improve its record to 2-0.
This week, the organization embedded in the University of Virginia. Last week, it camouflaged as Ohio and hammered out a 24-10 win in Happy Valley.
The Penn State kicker who would have defeated Virginia on Saturday, Anthony Fera, transferred to Texas.
Into the breach stepped Sam Ficken, a 19-year-old sophomore, who missed an extra point and four field goals, the last a 42-yard attempt as time expired.
The NCAA, as part of punishment levied against Penn State for heinous crimes committed by a coach who retired in 1999, allowed current players to transfer without having to sit out a year.
Penn State contributors you could not blame for leaving … did, including the star tailback, receiver, backup quarterback and the kicker it needed against Virginia.
It's only two weeks into four-year probation hell and Penn State is already in triage mode.
Last week, Bill Belton, the tailback who replaced USC-bound Silas Redd, injured his ankle. Belton's replacement, Derek Day, got hurt against Virginia.
When quarterback Matt McGloin was forced out after being hit on his throwing elbow, Penn State could not turn to backup Rob Bolden. He transferred to LSU.
Coach Bill O'Brien had to reach deep into his bench for freshman Steven Bench, who completed two of seven passes for 12 yards.
McGloin gamely returned with his arm wrapped tightly in what appeared to be two rolls of black duct tape.
There are still many who think the NCAA had no jurisdiction in unilaterally acting against Penn State for years-old crimes involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said an extraordinary case required extraordinary action, yet he elected not to shut the program down or take Penn State off television. What the NCAA settled for is allowing hard-working coaches and young men to slowly wither away.
Saturday it was broadcast on Channel 7.
The NCAA had no choice but to allow players to transfer out of Penn State understanding it could lead to the unintended consequences that forced young Sam Ficken to the field in Charlottesville.
Ficken had a day no kid born on Dec. 14, 1992, should have to endure.
Ficken is the son of Jim and Nancy Ficken. He has a brother Drew. Their cousin is former Purdue basketball star Robbie Hummel.
Ficken's Penn State bio says he enjoys water skiing and wake boarding. He did not list torture as a hobby.
He played soccer until his junior year at Indiana's Valparaiso High. School rules prohibited kids from playing both soccer and football, so Ficken ultimately switched to football.
He made a 52-yard kick as a high school senior and arrived at Penn State in 2011.
Ficken tweeted Aug. 25: "1st game can't get here soon enough."
He probably won't tweet about the second game.
Ficken had a bright future at Penn State. It just wasn't supposed to start this year.
Fera, the player who left for Texas, was the first Penn State kicker since 1975 to be the team's starter for field goals, kickoffs and punts.
Ficken will blame himself for missing four field goals and an extra point against Virginia, but there were accessories. It was disturbing to watch, especially when you considered the circumstances that led to the unfolding of this kicking catastrophe.
His teammates, forged by a common bond, did not turn against Ficken.
"We just told him to keep his head up," senior cornerback Stephon Morris said after the game. "We're all going through the same thing. Nobody said anything negative to him. It's not his fault, you can't blame one person."
This is not the end of it, of course. Penn State hasn't even started a Big Ten season that might lead to more televised humiliations.
Injuries and defeat will pile up as the Nittany Lions face the head winds of slashed scholarships.
The NCAA maintains it had to do something dramatic to punish Penn State for the sins and crimes perpetrated by grown men.
Predictably, the real pain will be shouldered by kid kickers and third-string tailbacks who came to Penn State only to do it proud.
"Sam is our kicker," O'Brien said. "We need to see what things we can do to help Sam get better."
What else could he say?
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