Hill, Ficken garner Big Ten Player of the Week accolades

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After helping Penn State to a 24-21 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Nov. 24, senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill and sophomore placekicker Sam Ficken have been honored by the Big Ten Conference.

Hill’s selection as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week is the second conference honor for the senior this season, also earning the nod after Penn State’s Oct. 20 win at Iowa. Ficken was named the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

Hill’s selection marks the fifth time this season that a Nittany Lion has been selected the conference’s top defensive player, the most of any Big Ten team. The co-captain also earned the award after the win at Iowa, while senior linebacker Michael Mauti earned the distinction after wins over Navy (Sept. 15) and Illinois (Sept. 29) and senior linebacker Gerald Hodges was honored following the win over Northwestern (Oct. 6). 

Ficken is the first Penn State special teams player to earn the accolade from the Big Ten this season and is the eighth place kicker in school history to earn the honor.

Their efforts helped head coach Bill O’Brien’s Nittany Lions to an 8-4 overall mark and a 6-2 record in the Big Ten. Penn State won eight of its last 10 games and finished second in the Leaders Division, with the only losses coming against Big Ten division winners Ohio State and Nebraska. 

Hill earned the weekly honor after posting a career-high 12 tackles – eight solo – along with three tackles for loss and two sacks against Wisconsin, his final contest in the blue and white. The senior was at his best with the game on the line, collecting eight of his tackles, one sack and 2.0 TFL in the fourth quarter and overtime. He made the first tackle in overtime, a stop of Montee Ball for just a 1-yard gain, and had pressure on Wisconsin’s Curt Phillips to force the third down incompletion in the extra period.

A pre-season candidate for the Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award, Hill was all over the field in the overtime victory, limiting UW’s offense to nearly 40 yards of total offense fewer than their season average and Ball to 20 yards fewer than his season rushing average. Hill was among the 31 seniors honored before the game and tied his career-high in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks in his final appearance at Beaver Stadium. 

Hill led a Penn State defense that forced eight consecutive punts and grabbed an interception after Wisconsin had taken a 14-7 first quarter lead. The Nittany Lions limited the Badgers to just 222 yards of offense over the final three quarters and overtime, after allowing 127 yards on the first two drives of the game.

For the season, Hill was fourth on the team with 64 tackles, second with 4.5 sacks and is tied for third with 8.5 tackles for loss. The former Steelton-Highspire High School standout also has one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His tackle total is No. 3 among Big Ten defensive linemen.

Ficken continued his streak of consecutive field goals made in the victory over Wisconsin, connecting on kicks from 23, 32 and 37 yards in the contest, connecting on his first career game-winning kick. The sophomore closed the season by making 10 consecutive field goals and was successful on 12 of his final 13 field goal attempts. Ficken also knocked through his lone extra point conversion to mark a 10-point effort versus the Badgers, his third 10-plus point outing in his last four games.

His three field goals tied his career-high, set earlier this season at Nebraska and his successful PAT marked the 31st consecutive make after a Penn State touchdown.

For the season, Ficken was 14-of-21 on field goal attempts and 38-of-40 in extra point tries to give him a team-best 81 points. His point total ranked sixth among kickers in the Big Ten and ranked No. 11 in overall points scored. In Big Ten only games, Ficken ranked No. 5 on the conference charts with 65 points (8.1 ppg) and was the second highest scoring kicker, trailing only Nebraska’s Brett Maher (67 points 8.4 ppg).

Penn State Athletics is on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pennstatenittanylions) and Twitter (http://www.gopsusports.com/ot/twitter.html).

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