The taunting was awful that afternoon at Virginia's Scott Stadium.

The student section cheered loudly when Penn State's Sam Ficken trotted onto the field for a game-winning field goal try in the final seconds.

Ficken had missed three previous tries and had an extra point blocked. So when his 42-yard attempt sailed left of the uprights, allowing the Cavaliers to win 17-16, the Virginia students roared.

Social media blew up with criticism of Ficken in the minutes and hours after the loss in early September.

"Twitter was a little rough there," Ficken said Wednesday, "but I don't really care about people who don't know what my ability level is and who don't really know me.

"I know it was out there, but you can't really dwell on any of that."

Remarkably, Ficken has recovered from that horrible day, despite dealing with a quadriceps injury. He's made six field goals in a row and eight of his last nine as the Nittany Lions prepare to meet Indiana Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

He's rebounded with the help of former Penn State kickers Robbie Gould, Kevin Kelly and Massimo Manca and Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, most of them reaching out to Ficken after the Virginia debacle.

"It's kind of like a club, I guess," Ficken said. "People don't really know what you're going through. It's a special position. You're kind of on your own with that one. You try to stick together.


"I sought out Robbie Gould. He's obviously doing very well in the NFL and knows his stuff."

Gould, who kicked for Penn State from 2001-04, is the most accurate kicker in Chicago Bears history and the fifth-most accurate in NFL history. He talks with Ficken every week to review game film.

Gould gave Ficken some simple, but effective advice.

"Slow down and don't think too much would be the biggest things," Ficken said.

By slowing down, he's been able to better direct his plant foot at his target, a key to kicking. Penn State secondary coach John Butler, who oversees the special teams, timed Ficken's kick at 1.2 seconds after the snap early in the season. It's now at 1.3.

"The biggest factor with your plant foot usually is slowing down a little bit," he said. "My ball tended to fade a little bit more than I like at the beginning of the season. Now it's more on a straight line with a little bit of a draw. I can place it more, so it seems to be helping out."

What also has been helpful has been the support of his family, his friends and his teammates, who had Ficken's back after the Virginia game.

"When he was struggling, we definitely didn't turn a shoulder to him," safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong said. "We embraced him. He's been kicking pretty well for us the last couple of weeks."

Then there was the support from the Penn State students, who cheered his made field goals during warm-ups the next week before the Navy game and haven't stopped since.

"After the Virginia game, I actually received a lot more support than I did negativity," he said. "That felt really good. With things going a whole lot better, it's been pretty much all positive, and it feels really good."

But while many people, including those in the kicking fraternity, have stood by Ficken, he's the one who has had to trot out onto the field and kick after enduring a very public nightmare.

Last week at Nebraska, he went 3-for-3, including a career-long 38-yarder, on a very windy day and after debris from the artificial turf got in one of his eyes before the game.

Ficken can see -- and think -- clearly now.

"You try to forget the missed kicks," he said, "but it is going to be in the back of your head. That's just how kicking goes. Making these past few kicks, my confidence level is definitely increasing. My goal is not to miss a kick the rest of the year."