UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A year ago at Penn State's previous white out game, Christian Hackenberg was with everybody else. He watched from the stands, nervous and loud but unable to do anything to shake these feelings except look at the football game playing out in front of him.
Saturday night he was in the middle of the zoo, in an even crazier game against Michigan, and he was the one who had to make sense of everything.
The freshman quarterback was given the ball with 50 seconds left in the game, trailing the Wolverines by a touchdown. The ball was on the 20-yard line. This would be his first experience in college with a two-minute drill situation with the game in the balance.
Hackenberg made three good passes to wide receivers Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder who each made acrobatic catches. Penn State scored to tie the score and went on to win, 43-40, in four overtimes. This is about what that last drive in regulation was like for Hackenberg.
"Controlled chaos is pretty much a good way to describe it," Hackenberg said. "We knew what we had to do."
For starters, coach Bill O'Brien said he had complete confidence in his quarterback's ability to dictate the offense in this type of situation. At practices since training camp they have recreated such scenarios. Hackenberg said the first-team offense is pitted against Penn State's first-team defense with a clock ticking down. They turn up music as loud as possible to replicate crowd noise.
Hackenberg tried to take what he learned from those practices and apply it, particularly pertaining to his state of mind.
"I really just try to approach it one play at a time and just try to execute by playing as best as I could," he said.
That answer can sound cliché, but Hackenberg maintains that really was the case. Somehow as Penn State drove the ball from the 20 to the goal line, scoring on a sneak by Hackenberg, his mind compartmentalized his duties and he was able to envision piecing together the final touchdown as a series of individual responsibilities that would lead to the goal.
"For some reason today it did," he said.
NOTE -- For the first time this season Robinson did not lead Penn State in receiving yards. Felder had six receptions against Michigan for 97 yards, compared to five receptions for 84 yards for Robinson. Felder, who missed the Indiana game with an ankle injury, has 22 receptions for 232 yards for the season. "It's all about the team," Felder said. "I look at the individual stats after the game. But it was a great win today. I was glad to be out there 100 percent helping the team."
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05. First Published October 13, 2013 8:00 PM