Penn State Football: Hackenberg Assaulting Record Book In Freshman Year
Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has played just ten games at the Division I level. He has already set three records and is well on his way towards setting more.
For as well as he has played, Penn State's willingness to run the ball coupled with some painful losses isn't the kind of scenario in which you expect to see records being set. But thanks in large part to receiver Allen Robinson, who has caught almost exactly half of Hackenberg's career yards, Hackenberg has slowly made a name for himself in Penn State's history books.
The sample size isn't very large, but Hackenberg now holds two Penn State freshman records, already breaking Zack Mills' season total of 1,669 yards as a freshman. Hackenberg has racked up 2,399 yards in 2013 -- 730 more than Mills. That's already more yards than Michael Robinson in 2005, Chuck Fusina in 1977.
Penn State's 44-24 loss to Indiana saw Hackenberg break two more records. Hackenberg broke Mills' single-game freshman record of 280 yards with a 340 yard performance. That game also landed Hackenberg at No.1 all-time in single game passing attempts with 55. Kerry Collins held the previous record of 54 passing attempts against BYU in 1992. Hackenberg landed himself No.3 all-time with 30 completions during that losing effort -- behind Wally Richardson's 33 completions and Matt McGloin's record of 35 completions against Northwestern in 2012.
"We've definitely increased his package every week," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien says of his freshman's growing playbook. "I think if you look at last week's game against Purdue, he made a lot more decisions at the line of scrimmage probably than he had made in most games. Some of those decisions he made on his own based on film study which is really, really good. That's when you know that a guy is starting to get it. So he's made tremendous strides and we've continued to feed him more and more of the playbook on a weekly basis."
If Hackenberg is only just nibbling on the playbook, then it's likely only a matter of time before larger records are broken. Hackenberg's 340 yard effort against Indiana was good enough for No. 9 all-time in single game passing yards at Penn State. Mills holds the record at 399, meaning the door is wide open to break the 400-yard mark for the first time in program history. Hackenberg's 2,399 yards already puts him No. at 9 all-time on the single season list with two games to go. If he hits his 239 yard per game average he could end the year with 2,878 yards, good enough for third best all-time for a single season in Happy Valley. That would put him 199 yards better than Kerry Collins in 1994.
It'll be awhile before Hackenberg can give the career record a run. Mills obliterated other quarterbacks who have come through Penn State with 7,212 yards in his career. McGloin's historic 2012 season is just inside 1,000 yards shy of Mills' mark. But if Hackenberg can finish above 2,730 yards for the year, that'll be good enough to knock Mike McQueary off the bottom of Penn State's Top 17 list found on page 71 of the media guide.
What does it mean? Well, a lot of nothing really. The Nittany Lions are 6-4 on the year and will probably improve on that in 2014. For now, Hackenberg's impressive year means the 18-year old is on track to be exactly what fans were hoping he would be -- one of the best to play under center in Happy Valley.