While Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg has had some ups and downs this season, he is starting to earn the nickname “Mr. Clutch.” For the second time in three games, Hackenberg brought his team back from behind to pull out an overtime victory.
Most recently, the Nittany Lions found themselves down three points late in the fourth quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini. With no timeouts remaining, Hackenberg stayed calm under the pressure, running the offense precisely and making huge throws when needed.
Penn State tied the game in regulation with a field goal before Hackenberg got his moment to shine in overtime. On a third and 11, after a touchdown run was called back due to a penalty, the true freshman looked as cool as a fifth-year senior. He stood in the pocket and threw a perfect strike to tight end Kyle Carter, who was amongst traffic in the end zone, for the touchdown.
Hackenberg had a solid game against the Illini, completing 20 of 32 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. While the performance wasn’t spectacular, his poise in the final minutes was.
It was the same story two weeks earlier when the Nittany Lions upset the then undefeated Michigan Wolverines in four overtimes. Hackenberg had made some mistakes early in that game, but came through when it counted.
He led a game tying drive with under a minute to go in regulation and no timeouts. The drive was capped off when Hackenberg dove into the end zone from a yard out.
Hackenberg is still young, and certainly plays like it at times. He’ll need to become more consistent as time goes on, but he’s off to a fine start. No one would argue right now that the young signal-caller is the best in the country, but it’s a legitimate argument to say he is now one of the most clutch at the position.