Whenever head coach Bill O’Brien elected to start a true freshman quarterback at Penn State this season, it was expected that there would be some growing pains. Christian Hackenberg showed both good and bad on Saturday night against the Michigan Wolverines, but made huge plays when it counted. Hackenberg was instrumental in the comeback victory and showed the poise of someone well beyond his years.
Hackenberg and the Penn State offense found themselves down a touchdown with just 50 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Instead of panicking, the young signal-caller stayed calm and led a magnificent drive to tie the game. On the game-tying drive, Hackenberg completed three-straight passes, including to big-time throws to Brandon Felder and Allen Robinson.
The drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by Hackenberg, who took his team 80 yards in just 29 seconds to force overtime.
Hackenberg, who’s had a bit of an up-and-down season, struggled a bit at the start of the game, throwing a bad interception early in the first quarter. However, he came back on the next drive and threw an amazing pass through traffic to Brandon Felder in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
He completed just over 50 percent of his passes, threw two interceptions and missed his receivers at times. However, he came through when the team needed him most. For the game, Hackenberg threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns.
While he has certainly looked like a true freshman at times this season, the drive at the end of regulation in this game will go a long way in Hackenberg’s development. He proved that despite his age, the Nittany Lions have a quarterback who can stay calm under pressure and give the team a great chance to win.
Though he still looks every bit of the kid he is, he certainly plays like a man on the football field. His game has matured quickly through six starts and he seems to have a very bright future as a quarterback.
There are sure to still be some bumps in the road, but Hackenberg’s performance against Michigan, especially late in the game, will be forever remembered in Penn State lure.
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