Penn State Football: Hackenberg Set To Be Tested In All Aspects Saturday Night
Penn State will need a balanced attack to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday night, there is no doubt about that. But if the Nittany Lions are going to take advantage of the Buckeyes' weaknesses it'll happen on the strength of freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg's arm.
So how do you keep Hackenberg fresh for the biggest game of his career?
"We have a pitch count. I'm constantly talking to Christian about how his arm feels," Head coach Bill O'Brien said earlier this week. "With a young guy whose muscles are still developing, you have to really teach him how to take care of his arm and talk to him about how does his arm feel? Tim Bream does a great job with that too."
Keeping Hackenberg fresh is an obvious, yet important move by O'Brien. The 18-year-old gunslinger has thrown 30 or more times in all but one game so far this season. Hackenberg peaked out at 55 attempts against Indiana in a 44-24 loss a few weeks ago. That was one better than Penn State's previous single game record set by Kerry Collins in 1992 against BYU.
For Hackenberg, his play on Saturday night will come in front of a crowd unlike any other he has seen in his career. Ohio State brings with it one of the loudest fan bases in college football. According to O'Brien he doesn't think that the mental aspects of Hackenberg's game will be affected that much.
"I think that one of the things that has struck me about Christian since the day I met him, which was at junior day almost two years ago now, a year and a half ago, whatever, but is his demeanor. He's a very ‑‑ he's a calm guy. He's got a quiet confidence about him." O'Brien said.
"You know, he understands that it's football. It's football. It's a part of his life. It's a big part. He's a great family guy, loves his family, talks about his family all the time, things like that. I think he's a very well‑rounded guy that we've got here."
"I think he focuses on his assignments. That's the thing about like big games, big stadiums. I mean, you're playing Ohio State in the Horseshoe. I mean, that's a great opportunity for everybody. But I think when the game starts, everybody involved is really just focused on the game, not the 90,000 people, 100,000 people that are sitting in the stands. You have to deal with the noise and things like that, but you're just very focused on what your job is on that play and on the next play and on the next play. I think that's probably what he thinks about quite a bit."
Penn State will need all of Hackenberg's thinking to be on point on Saturday, but if anyone has proven to be ready for all obstacles, Hackenberg has been Penn State's man.