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October 13, 2013
MORE PENN STATE: BlueWhiteIllustrated.com
Through five games of his freshman season, former five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union (Vir.) Military is already littering the Penn State record book with multiple single-game records.
His performance in helping push the Nittany Lions past Michigan in quadruple overtime may be remembered as the highlight of first page in writing his own legacy.
The stats read as 23-of-44 for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Head coach Bill O'Brien said that the final drive to force overtime was as much an evolution as execution.
"Those are situations that we practice every day," O'Brien said. "You guys know that. We practice two-minute situations every day. That one that we had at the end of the game, we practiced that just the other day. I think it was 50 seconds left in the game and we had the ball from our own 25 or 30 yard line. We knew there were specific plays we wanted to run there and we just needed the line to block well and they did. We were able to come up with some big plays. I think Christian is, obviously, a very mature quarterback for being 18-years old. He's a fun guy to coach. Some of that was training too, and that paid off."
The drive saw the quarterback complete three passes -- missing only on a spike to stop the clock -- moving the team 79 yards in 23 seconds before going in for his rushing touchdown.
Receiver Allen Robinson was a big reason for the victory as he made an incredible, 36-yard catch to keep the chains moving. He also credited the poise of his young quarterback.
"That's a situation we have been in numerous times in practice," he said. "From the time camp started to now, we probably had run 100 two-minute drills, with 30 seconds remaining, zero timeouts or one timeout. So it is something that we did practice. Coach signaled the play in and I knew once Hack threw me the ball, I had to make a play on it."
In overtime the Nittany Lions put the ball in the hands of running back Bill Belton, and he responded with a conversion on fourth down and the winning score. But it was the confidence of Hackenberg to try and thread a small window to Robinson on 3rd down and goal -- a pass that drew an interference call -- that may have been the difference maker.
Robinson and Brandon Felder combined for 11 receptions and 181 yards with two touchdowns in the contest.
Hackenberg said that Robinson is always helping him read the defenses and find spots that the pair can attack.
"He and I are always talking," Hackenberg. "All my receivers, we're always just talking about what they see, what type of feel they have for the defense, how the corners are playing. He and I have a great relationship. It goes back to the hours we put in, in the summer."
Coming off of a 20-point loss to Indiana the victory was huge for the program moving forward. O'Brien said it was much needed.
"It's a big win for us," he said. "It means a lot. You beat a really good Michigan team, 5-0. You're 3-2, coming off a bad loss. I think it says a lot about these kids, it says a lot about this coaching staff. These coaches here came back to work on Sunday and tried to put together a good game plan and our kids did their best to go out and execute it. I've never been in a game like this. This is a first for me."
It was a first of what could be many major wins if the growth of the No. 24 overall prospect in the class of 2013 continues.
Recruiting class of 2013 five-star tracker
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
QB Max Browne, USC
LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
OL Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
LB Matthew Thomas, FSU
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
RB Greg Bryant, Notre Dame
S Leon McQuay III, USC
DE Frank Herron, LSU
DT Montravius Adams, Auburn
RB Ty Isaac, USC
LB Alex Anzalone, Florida
S Max Redfield, Notre Dame
DB Vonn Bell, Ohio State
DT A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
Dallas Jackson is the national columnist for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.