Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg Shows Tremendous Growth, Sets Freshman Record

Andrew CoppensContributor ISeptember 7, 2013

The record book will show that Christian Hackenberg set the Penn State record for most passing yards by a freshman with 311 yards, but the real story from Happy Valley may be the growth Hackenberg showed from the opening minutes of the game to the knockout punch he sent in the fourth quarter. 

Penn State rolled visiting Eastern Michigan 45-7, and Hackenberg ended his day 23-33 passing for 311 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Great numbers for any quarterback, right?

However, the beginning of this game would've told you that Hackenberg was about to show why he was a freshman, going 1-4 passing and then getting sacked and fumbling the ball in the first three possessions of the game for the Nittany Lions. 

Penn State and Eastern Michigan were tied at 7-7 following the first quarter when Hackenberg looked iffy at best. 

Most young quarterbacks would be flustered and frustrated. 

Except what we saw instead was maturation, as Hackenberg pick himself up and proceeded to have one heck of a half of football, going 15-22 for 207 yards as Penn State went into the half up 17-7 on the visiting Eagles. 

Hackenberg became more emboldened as the game went on, throwing for 107 of his record 311 yards in the second quarter while completing 12-15 of his passes during that period. 

Hackenberg also showed the ability to make big time plays at the right time, hitting Allen Robinson twice for plays of 40 yards or more. None more telling than a 2nd-and-8 at the EMU 45 yard line.

He stepped up in the face of a huge rush and floated one perfectly to a wide open Robinson for the touchdown. Instead of doing the freshman thing and panicking, he kept his cool, looked down field and the rest, as they say, is history. 

On the day he hit five big plays in the passing game (defined as plays of 15 yards or more), two of which went to star receiver Allen Robinson. Additionally, Hackenberg hit 10 different receivers on the day, deciding to not key on one target. 

Yet another sign of a quarterback who gets it early on in his career.

After two games worth of results, there is no doubting that the early returns on Hackenberg's performance are showing why he was considered the top pro-style quarterback by most in the class of 2013. 

For the season, Hackenberg has completed 70 percent of his passes for 589 yards. Not bad for any quarterback, let alone a true freshman.

If there is a small area of concern, it's that he has a three touchdown to three interception ratio. 

However, it's hard to argue there is a freshman that has shown more poise and growth through his first two games in the country, and ultimately one that is the key to Penn State having success long term in 2013.