Hackenberg, who leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 278.7, said he has not yet taken the time to soak in and fully grasp what the drive meant since he's in the midst of the season. But he has watched it and said he learned from it.
"It gave me a different view on it, I guess you could say," said Hackenberg, who has three Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors so far. "In the heat of the moment, I didn't really understand how everything transpired, but being able to sit down, it made me really proud of our team and how we responded as a whole."
On the five-play drive that ultimately led to a four-overtime victory, Hackenberg completed three passes for 79 yards, and capped the drive off with a 1-yard scoring sneak - the first rushing touchdown of his career. Hackenberg's run isn't what will be ingrained in the minds of fans for years to come, however. Instead, that play belongs to its immediate predecessor, a 36-yard pass that wideout Allen Robinson leaped to grab inches from the goal line.
Robinson and Hackenberg have been a successful tandem; Robinson has 43 receptions, 705 yards and five touchdowns in six games.
"I definitely get into a comfort zone where you understand you can be a little less accurate and he can still come down with the ball," Hackenberg said of Robinson. "I knew if I put it in a spot where he could catch it, he was either going to catch it or it was going to be incomplete."
As far as his own numbers, Hackenberg has thrown for 1,672 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 58.4 percent of his throws. To put it in perspective, through six games last season, former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin had 1,494 passing yards (249 per game), 12 touchdowns, two interceptions, five rushing scores and a 61.5 percent completion percentage.
Hackenberg said he was happy with his first six games, but added there is room for improvement in "every aspect." Coach Bill O'Brien shared these feelings, and added he thought his young quarterback has gotten better every week.
"I think he's a focused guy," O'Brien said. "I believe we always have to continue to improve with his accuracy and his mechanics and his knowledge of the offense, but I'm very pleased with where he is right now."
The Nittany Lions are off this Saturday, before traveling to face No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 26. Hackenberg said he plans on a having a laid-back weekend with visits from his father and younger brother. He may even hit the golf course, something he said he often does on Sundays, adding that his best score was a 39 on nine holes.
But on the practice field, Hackenberg and Penn State are preparing for the Buckeyes - who have yet to lose under coach Urban Meyer - and what will undoubtedly be the most inhospitable crowd the clean-shaven quarterback has faced thus far.
"Every week, we usually crank music during the offensive period [at practice]," Hackenberg said about prepping for the crowd. "We're just looking forward to it. It's a first for me. A lot of the guys, fortunately, have played in some pretty hostile environments. So, you know, I'm going to be leaning on them."
It is 5 years away, but Penn State has an intriguing conference home schedule in 2018. Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maryland are all slated to visit Beaver Stadium five seasons from now, the Big Ten announced yesterday. The Lions will open 2018 conference play with a trip to Illinois, and Indiana, Michigan and Rutgers are also road foes that season.
Penn State will open its Big Ten schedule on the road in 2019 with a trip to Maryland. The Nits will face the Terrapins, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State on the road that season and host Purdue, Michigan, Indiana and Rutgers in 2019.