Hackenberg looking to use his legs more
Christian Hackenberg knew he put his fourth quarter pass to Allen Robinson in a place where only Robinson would have a chance to reel it in.
"He was either going to catch it or it was going to be incomplete," the true freshman quarterback said.
Robinson and the Michigan defender went up, but the Penn State wideout went higher. It was the biggest of all the big catches Robinson has already made this season, as it set Hackenberg up for a 1-yard touchdown sneak to tie the Wolverines with just seconds left in regulation.
It was Hackenberg's only rush for a gain in Penn State's quadruple overtime win against Michigan, 43-40.
Robinson and Hackenberg lead the Big Ten in receiving (705) and passing yards (1,672), respectively. With the standout wide receiver as one of his targets, Hackenberg said he can relax in the pocket when he's passing the ball.
"I definitely get into a comfort zone where you understand you can be a little less accurate and [Robinson] can still come down with the ball," the reigning Big Ten freshman of the week said.
However, Hackenberg did suggest he may be getting a little too comfortable in the pocket at times. In some situations Saturday, the offensive line opened holes that Hackenberg declined to take.
Hackenberg said that his pass-happy approach so far this season can be "mentally straining," but it's nothing new to him. His arm paced the offense of his high school team, which he said didn't have a strong running game.
In college, there will inevitably be times when a good secondary closes off all of his passing options. When this has happened to Hackenberg at Penn State, he has often panicked and tried to throw the ball near an eligible receiver - risking an interception or an intentional grounding penalty.
More elusiveness on the ground - even if Hackenberg is ultimately destined to run out of bounds for a short gain - could go a long way for the young quarterback.
"That's one thing I've been working more on in practice," he said. "I was really trying to make a lot of plays with my arm, so I'm understanding I can get out of the pocket a little bit and make those plays."