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Christian Hackenberg leads Penn State past BC in Pinstripe Bowl

Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Penn State sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg started off the season with a bang. He finished it the same way Saturday, leading Penn State to a 31-30 overtime victory over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.

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BC (7-6) scored first in OT but missed the extra point, setting the stage for more heroics from Hackenberg. As he did in the season-opening win over UCF in Dublin, Ireland, Hackenberg rallied Penn State (7-6) late in this one.

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BC took a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter, but Hackenberg tossed a TD pass on the final play of the third quarter and then again with 6:48 remaining to tie the score at 21-21. After BC took a 24-21 lead with 2:10 left, Hackenberg guided Penn State on an eight-play, 49-yard drive that ended with a game-tying field goal with 20 seconds remaining. His winning play in overtime was a perfect 10-yard pass that he lofted up to Kyle Carter in the end zone.

Hackenberg finished 34-of-50 for 371 yards and four TDs. He had thrown just eight TD passes in the regular season -- and 15 interceptions -- with just four TDs coming in the final 10 games. His 371 yards Saturday were his second-most of the season, behind the 454 in the opener.

Hackenberg (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) went into the season considered one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, but he truly lived up to the hype just twice -- against UCF and BC.

Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 TDs as a true freshman last season, and NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks in May touted Hackenberg's "impressive" arm strength, anticipation and awareness, writing that "NFL scouts are already salivating about his potential at the next level."

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But despite his performance Saturday, Hackenberg regressed this season. A coaching change meant a different offense, and a porous offensive line led to a poor rushing attack, which in turn led to open season on Hackenberg for opposing pass rushers. Plus, there was no experienced go-to receiver on the roster heading into the season. While redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton emerged as a 75-catch guy, his skill level was nowhere near that of Allen Robinson, who left after his junior season and now is a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Hackenberg finished this season with 2,977 yards, 12 TDs and 15 interceptions. He completed 55.8 percent of his passes, a drop of almost 4 percent from last season.

Next season could be interesting for Hackenberg, who is one of nine offensive starters expected to return. Penn State needs a feature back to emerge, but the receiving corps should be a strength. While the line probably will remain an issue, it should be better than it was this season. In short, expect Hackenberg to again be hyped heading into the 2015 season, and for him to come much closer to living up to the hype than he did this season.

Saturday's victory came in Penn State's first bowl game since the 2011 season; the Nittany Lions were ineligible for the postseason the past two seasons because of NCAA sanctions emanating from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Saturday's game was Boston College's seventh this season decided by six or fewer points. The Eagles lost despite rushing for 285 yards.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.



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