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Penn State kicker Sam Ficken gets Derek Jeter's old locker, gift for clutch play

Penn State Nittany Lions placekicker Sam Ficken looks

Penn State Nittany Lions placekicker Sam Ficken looks on against the Boston College Eagles in the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Penn State placekicker Sam Ficken is a Cubs fan. "Unfortunately," he said.

So when the senior special teams captain was assigned Derek Jeter's locker for Saturday night's New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, the tradition didn't necessarily resonate with him at first.

But after Ficken kicked a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime and converted the go-ahead extra point in Penn State's 31-30 win over Boston College, the significance of what he had done hit home.

Just as Jeter got the game-winning hit in the ninth inning in his final home game, Ficken delivered a magical moment for Penn State fans in their first bowl game since sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal were lifted.

"The way the game went and my career went, it's a funny thing," Ficken said. "It was a storybook ending. I couldn't have written a better way for it to go."

When someone noted the extra point landed in Monument Park, where Jeter's plaque soon will reside, Ficken smiled and said, "I couldn't ask for a better ending."

Ficken has come a long way since Sept. 8, 2012, when he missed four field-goal attempts and a PAT in a 17-16 loss to Virginia. But he insisted he wasn't nervous on the tying field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation.

Boston College scored a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, but kicker Mike Knoll missed wide right on the extra point.

"We've had a lot of difficulty this year on extra points and field goals," Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. "There were a lot of plays all over the place, but the obvious thing is the bitter end."

Ficken never roots for another kicker to miss because of what he's been through. But when it happened, he admitted: "I was a little excited. I'm just so happy for this team to end this way in Yankee Stadium in New York City."

Said Penn State coach James Franklin, "I love Sam Ficken. He's been our best offensive weapon all year long . . . He rang the bell on Wall Street the other day, and he rang the bell on the field goal [and winning PAT] to end it."

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