STATE COLLEGE — John Cappelletti already owned one unique accomplishment in Penn State’s 127 years of football. On Saturday, he added another.
The Nittany Lions’ first and only Heisman Trophy winner became their first player to have his number retired. Cappelletti was presented with a framed No. 22 jersey at halftime as part of a 40th anniversary celebration of his undefeated 1973 squad.
“In all the years that this school has been here and all the players that have gone through here, for me to be the one to get his jersey retired is just unbelievable,” Cappelletti said. “It’s hard to comprehend right now.”
Cappelletti said the retirement was an idea pitched to him by athletic director Dave Joyner. It took Cappelletti, who won the Heisman after that 12-0 campaign in 1973, some time to warm up to it.
“Last week was probably one of the more miserable weeks of my life thinking about this the whole time,” Cappelletti said. “Now it’s great. It’s just such a nice thing. Hopefully it’s meaningful to the fans and the school and we have a number retired now.”
Lions coach Bill O’Brien was in favor of the shift in tradition.
“I don’t make those decisions, but I’m very supportive of it,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s a high bar. I think you have to win the Heisman to get your number retired at Penn State.”
Another running back, redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch currently wears 22. After the game, Cappelletti addressed a victorious Lions locker room and asked Lynch to stand up in front with him.
“We want you to wear this jersey the rest of your career here,” Cappelletti said. “When you’re done with it, I want it back!”
That sent the room into laughter and had Lynch still smiling some 30 minutes later.
“That,” Lynch beamed, “was really amazing.”
Lynch will be the last player to wear the number, which also belonged to Evan Royster, the program’s all-time leading rusher.
Team equipment manager/historian Spider Caldwell, emphasizing the history of the number, was the one who suggested Lynch wear No. 22 when he arrived on campus last summer.
“Then I looked it up — Evan Royster, Cappelletti, all these greats wore it,” Lynch said. “So I took it. And every time I put it on, I remember the guys before me.”
Lynch did them proud on Saturday, getting his first career carry, his first career touchdown and his first career 100-yard game.
Penn State played without starting linebacker Mike Hull, who sprained his knee early in last week’s game against Syracuse.
With fellow linebacker Ben Kline (shoulder) also in street clothes, senior safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong again stepped up into a starting spot at outside linebacker.
O’Brien said both Hull and Kline were “fine” and should be able to return for next week’s game against UCF.
Tight end Kyle Carter (arm) was considered day-to-day but played with a heavy black wrap on his left arm. Carter finished with two catches for 16 yards.
During the game, the Lions lost junior safety Ryan Keiser early in the first quarter after a hit left him woozy on the sideline. O’Brien did not have an update on his status Saturday.
Punter Alex Butterworth took over Keiser’s duty as the holder on field goals.
Ficken sets a record
Because of that, Butterworth got to be a part of history as he held a record-breaking kick by Sam Ficken.
Ficken hit a 39-yard field goal late in the first half to give him 14 straight makes, breaking the record held by Craig Fayak since 1992.
The milestone came in Week 2 of 2013. In Week 2 of 2012, Ficken had missed four field goals and an extra point in a one-point loss to Virgina, making this a particularly special moment for the junior.
“Pretty cool,” Ficken smiled. “I actually didn’t know until running into halftime. One of the doctors told me I had the most consecutive field goals, so that was a nice surprise.”
A week after scoring his first career touchdown, Eugene Lewis finished with one catch for 5 yards against Eastern Michigan, hauling in a pass from Tyler Ferguson in the fourth quarter. He now has three grabs for 66 yards and a score on the season.
Lewis did however get his first action on special teams, lining up as a kick returner twice and fielding the ball both times for returns of 19 and 25 yards.