The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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September 1, 2013

Hackenberg leads Nittany Lions past Orange in opener

East Rutherford, N.J. — Christian Hackenberg knew about two weeks ago he was going to start his first college football game for Penn State.

Most everybody else found out Saturday, when the 18-year-old freshman quarterback led the Nittany Lions on to the field at MetLife Stadium.

Just a few months removed from playing high school baseball in Virginia, he confessed to a few nerves.

“After the first snap, it’s football,” he said.

The kid did OK.

Hackenberg threw for 278 yards and two touchdown passes and led Penn State to 23-17 victory against Syracuse. He went 22 for 31 and threw two interceptions as the second freshman to start a Penn State opener at quarterback since 1910.

“It’s a big change,” he said. “This coaching staff has helped me get through this. The team has helped me get through this, just really trying to immerse myself in the team and what the coaches are preaching every day.”

The blue chip recruit hit Eugene Lewis with a deep pass down the middle and the receiver reached into the end zone for a 54-yard score that made it 23-10 with 11:39 left in the fourth quarter.

“I did the easy part. I just threw the ball up,” Hackenberg said.

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien agreed, crediting Lewis for the route, fellow receiver Allen Robinson for drawing the defense and running back Zach Zwinak for picking up a blitz.

“On that play (Hackenberg) did the least amount of work,” O’Brien said. “He made the throw and that’s why he’s on scholarship.”

Hackenberg also hooked up with Robinson on a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Robinson, Penn State’s leading receiver last season, unexpectedly did not play in the first half, but finished with seven catches for 133 yards. O’Brien declined to say why Robinson sat out the first half.

Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen got the start at quarterback for new Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, and finished 16 for 37 for 189 yards.

“I liked his moxie, I liked his energy and I liked his fight,” Shafer said. “He made a couple of good throws, took some shots.”


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