After a fantastic season in 2013 that earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg had high expectations heading into the 2014 season. His performance in the Croke Park Classic on Saturday showed that he’s ready to become even better in his sophomore season.
A shaky offensive line, a few mental errors and aches and pains didn’t rattle the young signal-caller. Hackenberg fought through some adversity and became the first Penn State quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game. He finished the contest against UCF with 454 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Hackenberg showed poise well beyond his years. He and the offense got the ball down by one with just 90 seconds remaining. Instead of panicking, Hackenberg stayed calm and made some big plays to set up the game-winning score. Perhaps the biggest play of the drive was a an eight yard scramble on fourth and three to keep hope alive.
During the broadcast of the game, ESPN commentator Ed Cunningham referred to Hackenberg as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation right now. While that seems like a bold statement on the surface, it may not be that far from the truth. Hackenberg has a big arm and should continue to progress as the season goes on.
Going back to 2013, Hackenberg stepped in right away and played great as a freshman. There were several times last season where Hackenberg had to drive his team down the field in high-pressure situations. He splashed on the scene after driving the Nittany Lions with about a minute left in regulation to tie the game against Michigan.
That experience from last season likely helped Hackenberg at the end of the game against UCF.
There’s no doubt that though just a sophomore, Hackenberg has the skills to be a top-tier quarterback. Sure, there were some hiccups against UCF, but that’s to be expected in the first game of the season.
The super sophomore will take the field at home against Akron next Saturday and will look to once again put together a solid performance.