DALLAS - Penn State punter-kicker Anthony Fera encountered a travel hiccup on his way home to Texas for the holidays after a flight delay in State College, Pa., caused him to miss his connection in Philadelphia.
No problem. Fera just went into the city and stayed overnight with his aunt, one of more than a dozen relatives of his from in and around Philadelphia.
"We had a good visit," said Fera, a sophomore from the Houston suburb of Cypress. "I got a cheesesteak. That was nice. I also got a chance to talk to a bunch of my family in Philly on Christmas as well."
Fera was born in Philadelphia, but his family moved to Spring, Texas, when he was 6. His parents were born and raised in the city, and his father, Tony, played soccer at Widener. He said "pretty much all my family still lives there."
Fera found himself handling all the kicking duties - punting, placekicking, and kickoffs - for the Nittany Lions this season, and he handled them all with great skill. He finished fourth in the Big Ten in punt average at 42.0 yards and third in both field-goal percentage (14 of 17, 82.4 percent) and average field goals (1.27) per game.
He said his confidence grew as the season wore on, basically because he had to find the right balance of practicing enough in all three areas without overdoing it.
"You have to warm up different during games; you can't do as much warming up," he said. "During the week, you can't kick too much. You've got to cut your reps back so you can even it up [among the three] and get a good routine going.
"I feel like at first, I kind of had to get used to doing all three again. I got comfortable the last couple of games doing all three and started doing much better. So I'm excited. Hopefully I can keep going through this last game."
It was a rocky start to the season for Fera, the Lions' punter last season. He was held out of preseason practice by then-coach Joe Paterno after pleading guilty to two summary offenses during the summer related to underage drinking and fighting.
But Fera served his punishment and, with Penn State having begun the season going 2 of 7 on field-goal attempts, moved in to shore up that area. He made all 11 of his tries inside 40 yards.
When the Nittany Lions play Houston on Monday in the TicketCity Bowl, Fera will be called upon to get his team much-needed points to keep up with the high-powered Cougars and to try to pin Heisman Trophy vote-getter Case Keenum close to the Houston goal line with his punting.
"We know we've got to put up a lot of points because their offense is so good," Fera said. "It's probably going to play a big role. Field position might be a big factor."
Fera and two other Nittany Lions from Texas - starting cornerback D'Anton Lynn (Celina) and reserve guard Frank Figueroa (San Antonio) - are happy to be in a bowl game close to home, something that couldn't be said for their teammates on bowl selection Sunday.
Penn State players were angry that three bowl games affiliated with the Big Ten passed on them to take teams that the Nittany Lions defeated, and relegated them to the TicketCity Bowl, which will be played at the Cotton Bowl.
"I was excited," he said. "It's pretty close to home. Any time you can get close to home, it's fine. I got to come home for Christmas as well, so that was a plus."
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