Penn State has played five games in 2012 and one thing is extremely clear: The kicking game is in trouble.
Kicker Sam Ficken has made only two out of eight field goals on the year and has missed two extra points.
Anthony Fera, one of the best kickers in the nation, left Penn State over the summer to transfer to Texas.
Ficken's kicking woes have been causing the most trouble for the Nittany Lions so far in 2012. The Lions lost 17-16 in Week 2 at Virginia. In that game, Ficken missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked.
Even after that horrible performance, head coach Bill O'Brien continued to stick with Ficken without finding a replacement for him.
That is sure to end soon, given the fact that Ficken has failed to improve and continues missing kicks that should be easy for any collegiate kicker.
The offensive game plan is now thrown off because of Ficken's inability to convert on a consistent basis. O'Brien has to be ready to go for it almost every time on fourth down in the opponent's territory. O'Brien is aggressive anyways, but has elected to go for it on numerous occasions when his team was in typical chip shot field goal range.
Ficken has proven that even the attempts from close distance can be an adventure. In Week 5 at Illinois, Penn State lined up at the two yardline to attempt a kick at the end of the first half. That attempt was blocked
While fans may love the aggressiveness, Penn State needs to have a kicker who can actually make field goals. Ficken has shown that he cannot be counted on. One loss can already be attributed to him, how many more mishaps will it take before a change is made?
Sure, this season doesn't really count for the Nittany Lions, but they still want to do everything possible to win.
Benching Ficken should now be an easy decision for O'Brien. Yes, switching personnel at an important position mid-way through the year is usually not recommended, but Penn State is out of options.
Of course, replacing the kicker may be easier said than done. The other placekicker listed on the roster is State College native, junior Kevin DiSanto. The walk-on kicker has yet to attempt a kick of any kind in college.
Senior wide receiver Evan Lewis is the only other player on the current roster who has attempted a kick in college. The Gettysburg, Pa native started the 2011 season as the placekicker, but gave up that job to Anthony Fera after making just one out of five field goals and also missing an extra point.
O'Brien may want to scour the soccer team and hold open tryouts on campus to try to find anyone who can make a field goal with any type of consistency. The bottom line is that it can't really get any worse than it already is.
Sam Ficken came into a tough situation replacing Fera and tried his best. Unfortunately, his best is not good enough. Nothing against Ficken the person, but Penn State needs to move on while there is still time.