Penn State Football

Who are Penn State’s best-ever K/P? Was the No. 1 specialist left out of the top-10?

Penn State’s Sam Ficken kicks the winning field goal in overtime during the Saturday, December 27, 2014 Pinstripe Bowl game against Boston College at Yankee Stadium.  The Nittany Lions won in overtime, 31-30.
Penn State’s Sam Ficken kicks the winning field goal in overtime during the Saturday, December 27, 2014 Pinstripe Bowl game against Boston College at Yankee Stadium. The Nittany Lions won in overtime, 31-30. CDT photo

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Penn State football: The all-time Top 10 at each position

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Our summer series determining Penn State’s top-10 players at each position has reached Day 6, and it’s time for the kicking specialists.

To recap: We started off with running backs, followed by defensive tackles, defensive backs, wide receivers and tight ends. There were controversial rankings through five days — and there’s another in this edition. Penn State’s lone Ray Guy Award finalist — Jeremy Kapinos — didn’t crack the top 10.

As a reminder, we organized a group of 12 experts — six former players, six media members — to vote on the top-10 all-time players at each position. Each day we’ll release a new position, and if you think we missed something, you can vote in our fan poll, which will be released on July 21.

Here are Penn State’s top-10 kicking specialists based on the opinion of our 12-person panel.

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Penn State photo of kicker John Bruno.

10. John Bruno, 1984-1986

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / unranked

Career stats: 41.7 yards per punt

It was Bruno’s performance in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl that has him on this list. In Penn State’s 14-10 win over Miami, which brought home the Nittany Lions’ second national title, Bruno was fantastic. He averaged 43.4 yards per attempt on nine punts, pinning the Hurricanes deep in their own territory often. Former Penn State offensive coordinator Fran Ganter said, “There was talk that he was the MVP.” Added Joe Paterno: “We wouldn’t have won it without him.”

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Penn State’s Sam Ficken kicks the winning field goal in overtime during the Saturday, December 27, 2014 Pinstripe Bowl game against Boston College at Yankee Stadium. The Nittany Lions won in overtime, 31-30. Abby Drey CDT photo

T-6. Sam Ficken, 2012-2014

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / unranked

Career stats: 54 field goals, 72 field goal percentage, 271 points

Let’s revisit Ficken’s three game-winning kicks. The first came on Senior Day 2012, the final game for players who helped keep the program afloat — Matt McGloin, Michael Zordich and the injured Michael Mauti. Ficken hit a 37-yard field goal in overtime, and Wisconsin’s Kyle French missed his 45-yard attempt, sending Beaver Stadium into pandemonium. Twenty-one months later in Dublin, Ficken nailed a 37-yarder for a walk-off win in the Croke Park Classic — James Franklin’s first game at the helm. Penn State capped that season in the Pinstripe Bowl, where Ficken hit a game-tying field goal to send it into overtime and later connected on a game-winning extra point. All three games were pivotal moments in Penn State’s recent history — and Ficken was at the heart of them.

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Punter Jeremy Boone punts during the OSU game. Penn Statebeat Oregon State 45-14 September 6, 2008. CDT/Nabil K. Mark CDT/Nabil K. Mark

T-6. Jeremy Boone, 2007-2009

Best ranking / worst: No. 4 / unranked

Career stats: 43.1 yards per punt

When Ray Guy finalist Jeremy Kapinos moved on, Boone took the job and thrived. He is Penn State’s all-time leader in punting average, just barely edging out George Reynolds. Boone led the Big Ten in punting in 2007 and 2008 and was named a first-team all-conference selection in 2007. In 2008, 15 of his 39 punts landed inside the 15-yard line. The Nittany Lions scored a lot of points that season en route to a shared Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth. But when drives stalled out, Boone could be counted on.

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Robbie Gould kicks the ball as Paul Cronin holds. PennState beat Michigan State 37-13 November 20, 2004 Nabil K. Mark

T-6. Robbie Gould, 2001-2004 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 39 field goals, 232 points

Gould had a fine Penn State career — ranking seventh all-time in scoring — but proved to be a better NFL kicker than college specialist. Gould latched on with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2005. By the time he was released in 2016, the 2006 All-Pro was Chicago’s all-time leader in points (1,207), field goals made (276) and career field goals of at least 50 yards (23). Even after being cut, Gould continued to produce. He made the 2018 Pro Bowl as an alternate after hitting 95.1 percent of his field goals, second-best in the NFL last season.

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Penn State kicker Massimo Manca.

T-6. Massimo Manca, 1982, 1985-1986

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: 40 field goals, 206 points

Manca was Penn State’s placekicker during its run to the 1986 national title — but his best season came a year earlier. The Italian-born Nittany Lion drilled 21 of 26 field goals and converted all 28 extra-point tries in 1985, a year defined by razor-close wins. Penn State went 11-1, but seven of those victories were by seven points or less. All season, especially in the close calls, Manca’s 91 points were crucial.

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Kevin Kelly misses a long field goal at the end of the firsthalf. Penn State beat Oregon State 45-14 September 6, 2008.CDT/Nabil K. Mark CDT/Nabil K. Mark

5. Kevin Kelly, 2005-2008 (2 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 78 field goals, 425 points

Like linebacker Dan Connor, Kelly is a program record-holder who found himself further down the rankings than expected. Kelly’s marks in made field goals and points scored outpace second place by a wide margin and may never be broken; his 78 field goals are 24 more than Ficken, and the 425 points are 107 more than what Saquon Barkley contributed, which says a lot. The first-team All-Big Ten selection set an NCAA record for consecutive games with a field goal (31). Kelly, a four-year starter, hit a game-winning field goal in triple overtime of the 2005 Orange Bowl — a memorable kick-start to a reliable career.

4. Craig Fayak, 1990-1993

Best ranking / worst: No. 3 / unranked

Career stats: 50 fields goals, 282 points

On Nov. 17, 1990, Fayak faced the biggest kick of his life. And he drilled it. With eight seconds left in a 24-24 game at South Bend, Fayak connected on a 34-yarder, right down the middle, to give Penn State a season-defining upset over No. 1 Notre Dame. But that was just one of 50 field goals Fayak made for Penn State, third-most in program history. His 282 points were recently passed on the all-time list by Barkley. Fayak, a Belle Vernon native, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

3. Brett Conway, 1993-1996 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / No. 10

Career stats: 45 field goals, 276 points

Penn State scored a lot in 1994, and Conway was the man polishing off those trips to the end zone. Conway hit a remarkable 62 of 63 extra points in the Nittany Lions’ high-octane, undefeated campaign — setting a Penn State record for makes and attempts in a season. Conway wasn’t just solid at extra-point tries, though. A first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1996 and second-team pick in ‘95, Conway sits fourth on Penn State’s all-time scoring list and fifth in field goals. He finished with a career field goal percentage of 73.7.

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Penn State kicker Chris Bahr.

2. Chris Bahr, 1973-1975 (3 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / unranked

Career stats: 35 field goals

The voting dropoff from Nos. 1 and 2 to Nos. 3 through 10 was significant. It was clear the Bahr brothers are the highest-regarded kicking specialists in Penn State history. It’s difficult to differentiate the brothers’ resumes, but Chris finds himself at No. 2. The older Bahr brother was a first-team All-American in 1975 after leading the nine-win Nittany Lions in scoring. Chris Bahr is Penn State’s all-time leader in field goal percentage from at least 50 yards out (6 of 15, 40 percent). Bahr won two Super Bowls in Oakland and currently ranks third in franchise history in points scored (817).

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Penn State kicker Matt Bahr.

1. Matt Bahr, 1976-1978 (3 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / No. 5

Career stats: 39 field goals, 191 points

In 1978, Bahr’s legend began. The first-team All-American made 22 of 27 attempts that year, setting a since-broken NCAA percentage record (81.5 field goal clip). Bahr had four games of four field goals in Penn State’s 11-1 campaign, following in his brother’s footsteps to NFL stardom. From 1979 to 1995, Bahr played for six teams and won two Super Bowls — one in 1979 with the Steelers as a rookie, the other in 1991 with the New York Giants. He finished his NFL career with 1,422 points, which ranks 27th all-time — highest of any Penn State player.

Top K/P honorable mention: Jeremy Kapinos, 2003-2006; Tyler Davis, 2016-2017; Anthony Fera, 2010-2011; Ralph Giacomarro, 1979-1982; Blake Gillikin, 2016-present (1 first-place vote)

Voters in our panel: (Players) Keith Conlin, 1992-1995; Bill Contz, 1980-1982; Stephon Morris, 2009-2012; Joe Nastasi, 1995-1998; A.Q. Shipley, 2005-2008; Adam Taliaferro, 2000; (Media) Nate Bauer, Blue White Illustrated; Matt Brown, The Athletic; Cory Giger, The Altoona Mirror; John McGonigal, Centre Daily Times; Josh Moyer, Centre Daily Times; Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call

How the voting was done: Each voter was given an online survey, with 20-50 players at each position, to rank 1-10. If a player was not listed, voters were given the option for a write-in. First-place votes gave players 10 points, second-place votes gave them 9, etc. We then added all the point totals together to find our top 10; honorable mentions have received at least 10 total points.

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