PENN STATE QB HACKENBERG’S NFL DRAFT STOCK SINKING QUICKLY

By Peter Gleason

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s NFL draft stock is sinking like a rock.

And he better start putting up numbers at home tomorrow against Buffalo (the Nits are favored by 20 points) is he wants pro scouts to keep paying attention to him.

After throwing for 2,955 yards and twice as many touchdowns as interceptions as a true freshman in Bill O’Brien’s pro-style attack in 2013, many labeled Hackenberg as a future first-round pick.

A disastrous sophomore campaign under new coach James Franklin, however, had scouts pumping the brakes on Hackenberg’s prospects for the next level. Penn State’s stunning 27-10 loss to Temple last Saturday provided more evidence that the junior quarterback has a long way to go before ready for the NFL.

As noted by ESPN’s color commentator and former NFL quarterback Brock Huard during Saturday’s broadcast, Hackenberg will bear the brunt of Penn State’s ugly performance but this was an indictment of the Nittany Lions’ entire offense.

At times, it appeared that Temple knew the plays before Penn State called them, with defensive linemen peeling off blocks to throttle would-be screens or simply blowing through the Nittany Lions’ truly “offensive” line to hit Hackenberg time and time again.

Even when Hackenberg had time, however, he often struggled, completing 11 of 25 passes for just 104 yards and guiding Penn State to just 2 of 13 third down conversions.

His most impressive completion of the game may have been his first, a strong throw to his left on a deep out that demonstrated the anticipation and velocity scouts are looking for.

Hackenberg’s longest completion of the day — a 30-yard gain down the left sideline with just over five minutes remaining — was lauded by the commentators but was actually a poor throw, lofted deep and just as likely to be intercepted as caught by his receiver.

Hackenberg was bailed out on this particular play by wideout Chris Godwin but his fourth-down throw at the feet of running back Akeel Lynch just a few snaps later abruptly ended another Penn State drive.

Hackenberg’s worst mistake of the game, however, was a third quarter interception by Temple defensive end Shariff Finch, who returned the ball 26 yards to the Penn State 2-yard line. One play later, Temple ran it in to take its first lead of the game.

One of the knocks on Hackenberg has been his reliance on pre-snap reads. This appeared to be the case on the interception, as well, as he fired a quick pass to his right, and right into the arms of Finch, who was left free when Penn State’s right tackle blocked down.

While Hackenberg may have been expecting his right tackle to cut Finch to help clear space for the speed out his intended receiver ran, the blind throw was an unnecessary risk that could have been solved with a simple pump-fake or movement in the pocket from the quarterback.

Hackenberg’s inability to buy himself any time was another theme of the game. Penn State’s offensive line struggled mightily in this contest — at one point surrendering a sack when Temple rushed just two — but Hackenberg showed little agility, balance or spatial awareness, contributing to the Nittany Lions surrendering 10 sacks on the day.

It was a glorious day for Temple, whose win is the program’s first over Penn State or any team from a so-called “Power Five” conference since 1942.

For Franklin, Hackenberg and the Penn State faithful, however, Saturday was a humbling loss that should quiet talk (at least for now) that the junior quarterback should already be looking ahead to the next level.

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