Hackenberg Earns Fifth Big Ten Freshman of the Week Honor
Dec. 2, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) has been honored by the Big Ten Conference with his fifth Freshman of the Week accolade.
Hackenberg threw for 339 yards, one off his season-high, and a season-best four touchdown passes to lead the Nittany Lions to a 31-24 win over then No. 14 Wisconsin in the regular season finale. Hackenberg was 21 of 30, did not throw an interception, and was not sacked.
Athlon Sports named Hackenberg its National Freshman of the Week on Sunday for the second time this season. He has been selected Athlon's Big Ten Freshman of the Week five times this season as well.
The starting signal-caller in every game for Coach Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lions, Hackenberg's five Big Ten Freshman of the Week selections are the most for a conference player since 2010, when Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was honored six times.
Led by Hackenberg and a stellar defensive performance that limited Wisconsin to 120 rushing yards, 177.8 yards below its season average, Penn State earned a Top 15 on-field victory for the first time since defeating No. 13 LSU in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. The Nittany Lions earned their first Top 15 road win since beating No. 9 Ohio State in Columbus in 2008.
Hackenberg directed Penn State to 465 yards against the Badgers (second only to 468 yards by Arizona State), who entered the game ranked sixth nationally in total defense at 278.5 ypg. He threw for 339 yards against the nation's ninth-best pass defense, as the Badgers entered the game allowing 179.4 passing yards per game. The Nittany Lions' 31 points were just one away from the season-high allowed by Wisconsin, which was No. 5 in scoring defense at 13.4 ppg.
Led by Hackenberg, Penn State delivered the four longest plays from scrimmage against Wisconsin all season. He threw completions of 68, 52 and 59 yards, two for touchdowns, and Zach Zwinak (Frederick, Md.) ran for a 61-yard burst late in the game. Prior to the game, a 51-yard pass by Illinois had been the longest play allowed by the Badgers all season.
"We were taking advantage of our receivers running great routes and getting open and they went up and made plays," said Hackenberg. "And the offensive line protected enough for me to push the ball down the field. This was probably the most emotional game that I've played. It meant a lot to me and a lot to the team. I can't be more proud of the guys."
Hackenberg's best game as a Nittany Lion got off to a fast start. On the game's fourth play, he connected with freshman tight end Adam Breneman (Mechanicsburg) on a 68-yard touchdown pass, Penn State's longest play from scrimmage this season. Hackenberg also hit All-America receiver candidiate Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.) on a 52-yard completion in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Hackenberg rifled a seven-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Jesse James (Glassport), who made a great catch over the defender's helmet. Early in the fourth quarter, Hackenberg hit freshman wideout Geno Lewis (Wilkes-Barre) in stride on a 59-yard scoring strike to give Penn State a 31-14 lead. Hackenberg had 14 completions of 40-plus yards this season.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin was the last Nittany Lion to throw four touchdown passes in a game, in a 2012 win over Indiana.
Hackenberg posted his ninth 200-yard passing game this season, moving into third on the Penn State single season list, trailing only Kerry Collins (10, 1994) and McGloin (11, 2012). He also moved into a tie for eighth on the career 200-yard list with Todd Blackledge and Wally Richardson.
For the season, Hackenberg is 231 of 392 for 2,955 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten in completions (231), his 20 touchdown passes are one off the Big Ten lead, and he is 0.5 yards from being No. 2 in passing (246.2 ypg).
Hackenberg's 339 yards at Wisconsin gave him 2,955 yards for the season, moving into third place on the Penn State single-season chart. He passed Anthony Morelli (2,651 yards) and Kerry Collins (2,679) vs. Wisconsin and trails only McGloin (3,266, 2012) and Daryll Clark (3,003 in 2009) on the season list.
Hackenberg's 231 completions rank fourth at Penn State in a season, one behind Daryll Clark's 232 completions in 2009 for third.
Penn State finished the season with a 7-5 mark (4-4 in Big Ten), and has won 15 of its last 22 games under second-year coach O'Brien. The Nittany Lions return 16 starters for the 2014 season (8 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist).
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