The numbers for Christian Hackenberg's first two games of 2015 have not wowed people. Anyone who followed the Penn State quarterback's first two seasons knows he had some games when his current total of 231 passing yards would have been about an average amount for him after three quarters of a single contest.
But with the slow start for the offensive line and other challenges faced by the Nittany Lions, Hackenberg seems to be pleased that he has adapted his style of play to this point while not worrying about statistics.
"I think it's more of an approach for me rather than trying to solve issues and make plays that, quite frankly, aren't super-efficient and are risky at times," he said Wednesday on a conference call with the media. "I'm just trying to be as efficient as I can and control what I can control. I think that mind-set overall has really helped myself and has helped our offense be a little more efficient.
"Being able to do what I'm asked to do each and every play and do that at a very high level, that's what I'm trying to do and what each and every one of us on this offense is trying to do. So that's our total approach, controlling what each and every one of us has control over, winning our one-on-one battles whether it be up front or getting in the right play."
With the Nittany Lions' Big Ten season opener looming against Rutgers on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium, Hackenberg is ranked 113th in pass efficiency in the Football Bowl Subdivision, having completed 25 of 52 passes with an interception and a touchdown. After being sacked 10 times in the opening game against Temple, Hackenberg was not sacked once and hit only twice in the win over Buffalo.
Buffalo didn't have nearly the caliber of talent on defense as Temple, but the confidence that came with the performance of the offensive line was encouraging to everyone. Head coach James Franklin described the style of play as "run the ball, move the pocket, be able to run the ball in the red zone, be able to run the ball on third down, and mix the pass in."
If that trend continues, the running game will develop to a point where Hackenberg can operate with a better variety of plays. Right now, Franklin said, he is doing just fine.
"I think overall he's doing a great job from an efficiency standpoint, made some big throws for us on Saturday," Franklin said. "I think as the line continues to improve, I think you'll see Christian's impact grow. To be honest with you, right now he's having a huge impact, but maybe not what people would see on the stat lines."
Franklin said Hackenberg understands what challenges are being faced and that he's on board playing the more controlled game.
What you also may see is Hackenberg going deep a few more times as the offense continues to develop. With the ground attack getting a jolt from true freshman Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 115 yards in his home debut, Hackenberg went deep more in the fourth quarter against Buffalo than in his previous seven quarters.
"I think that was good for us," he said. "I think that's just the process of us just growing now, making sure we take advantage of each and every one of those when we have that opportunity, take those shots and make those plays."