WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The statistics present a thought that might still be hard to fathom: Penn State place-kicker Sam Ficken has become a reliable presence on special teams. Since the Virginia game -- one he and every Penn State fan would certainly like to forget -- he has made 6 of 9 field goals.
His best game came Saturday. Ficken made all four of his extra-point attempts and both of his field-goal attempts, from 27 yards and 24 yards.
He did so in his home state, in front of many members of his family, on the campus where his older brother attends college. But it wasn't the hometown vibes that energized him. He has been feeling better since that Virginia game.
As you'd expect, the miscues inspired Ficken to get better, to change. He consulted with former Penn State kickers, primarily Robbie Gould, who now plays for the Chicago Bears.
He called Gould and they've been in contact since. Through his guidance, Ficken has taken shorter steps to the ball on kicks, which he says reduces room for error. He also has started better visualizing a target behind the uprights, aiming his kick at it.
"They are little details you wouldn't think would matter a whole lot, but in the long run they really do," he said.
The six field goals he has made since the Virginia game have been from 24, 27, 27, 34, 21 and 21. He has missed from 43, 47 and 18, two of them blocked.
The improvement is particularly impressive considering his quadriceps injury. Ficken has had pain in the quad of his kicking (right) leg since the Iowa game.
Earlier, the pain could've been a distraction. He readily admits that, for any kicker, the right mental attitude makes a difference. He has blocked out the injury and all the misses, and he has lofty plans for the rest of the season.
"My goal is to not miss for the rest of the year," he said.
NOTES -- Tight end Kyle Carter did not make the trip to Purdue because of an ankle injury against Ohio State. ... Freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman, who has been injured since the Virginia game, made the trip to Purdue but did not play. He is eligible for a medical redshirt.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @mdent05.