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Penn State seniors get just reward in Pinstripe Bowl victory

Penn State football was supposed to be dead, gone or at least completely irrelevant after the NCAA hammer came down on the program in the summer of 2012. However, for a select group of seniors on this team they got a just reward for sticking things out in the form of a 31-30 overtime win against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.

No other player has exemplified the struggle and reward than senior kicker Sam Ficken, who went from scapegoat in 2012 to hero in 2014. On Saturday, Ficken capped off a huge season with some of the most clutch play of his career.

With the game sitting at 24-21 Boston College and 25 seconds left on the clock, Ficken came on and drilled a 45-yard field goal to put the game in to overtime.

After Boston College opened overtime by scoring a touchdown and missing the ensuing extra point, Ficken iced the win with a perfect extra point of his own.

Yes, Ficken ended the season a hero, just like he started it as one after knocking home the game-winning 36-yard field goal to beat UCF in Dublin, Ireland way back at the end of August.

In doing so Ficken and the rest of his fellow senior class lifted the weight of three long years off the shoulders of the program. Head coach James Franklin may have put the win in the beset possible perspective.

As for Ficken, he rose from making just 66.7 percent of his field goals in his sophomore season (2012) to hitting over 83 percent of his field goals this season. Instead of being the one booed off the field as the game ends, he wrote a special ending for himself and will likely have a great place in PSU football lore.

Ficken wasn’t the only player to shine though, as sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns in the win. He also managed to hook up with freshman wide receiver Chris Godwin for seven receptions, 140 yards and one touchdown.

It truly was a team effort and one that relied on clutch plays from each and every class on the Penn State roster.

Sure, the season and the game on Saturday had its ups and downs and it wasn’t really all that pretty (what else would you expect from a 6-6 team), but a win is a win. Many wouldn’t have believed you if you told them PSU would be a winning program back in 2012, but that’s exactly what happened.

This win clearly means more to the program and to those who chose to stay strong to the Penn State football family three years ago. For those players it’s a sweet ending, but it’s also a great new beginning for a program that has had the cloud of NCAA sanctions hanging over it for the past three years.

Instead of dwelling on the negatives from a season that could’ve been a lot better than it was, Penn State now had positive momentum for the future. It’s a future that apparently is very bright, according to Franklin.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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