For most 18-year-old Penn State students, game day in Happy Valley consists of rolling out of bed at 8:00 am, throwing on a blue and white football jersey, chugging some Gatorade, and finally heading over to the Beaver Stadium parking lots. What awaits these students is another action-packed day of tailgating, cheering, and hopefully celebrating with 100,000 other screaming fans.
For freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the game day routine is a bit different. Then again, he is not like most 18-year-old Penn State students. He’s 6’4” and 220 pounds. He has an absolute canon of an arm. He also happens to be the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions. With the first day of fall marking week four of the season, the Penn State community is quickly learning that the kid can flat out play.
Despite a bitter loss last weekend to Central Florida, Penn State can roll into its week four matchup reassured by the great play of its young quarterback. The game day butterflies are beginning to fade, the matchups are becoming clearer, and the game is slowing down for Hackenberg. Through the team’s first three games, the big freshman has calmly settled into the offense throwing for an impressive 851 yards and four touchdowns at a 71 percent completion rate. Oh yeah, and three of his four touchdowns came on completions of 45 yards or longer. Not bad for a player who arrived to the team in June.
On Saturday Hackenberg will lead the Nittany Lions to face a struggling Kent State team that has gone 0-10 in Big Ten matchups over the years. Unfortunately for the Golden Flashes, that record is not likely to improve much this weekend. Oddmakers have projected Penn State to win by three touchdowns against a struggling and desperate Kent State defense. Of course Vegas odds mean nothing to Hackenberg and Nittany Nation. The team is hungry and its quarterback is ready to prove on the field that he is the real deal.
If the home team’s offense can avoid third-and-longs by staying productive on first and second down, look for the offense to roll. Head coach Bill O’Brien acknowledged that appropriate play calling should keep his guys in more manageable situations. Expect Hackenberg to connect early and often with standout receiver Allen Robinson who has already amassed 300 yards receiving so far this season.
It’s worth noting that Hackenberg has already twice received the honor of Big Ten Freshman of the Week, while Bill O’Brien believes the quarterback has only earned himself a 'B' rating through three weeks. Come Monday, don’t be surprised if the promising freshman collects a third Big Ten award and an 'A' from his coach.
Heading into next week, Penn State will have a bye before it kicks off Big Ten play against Indiana.
Kickoff today is set for 3:30 on the Big Ten Network.