Saturday afternoon, we’ll be treated to an old-school Big Ten showdown between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines in Happy Valley. Penn State comes into the game at 3-2 overall, while the Wolverines are unbeaten at 5-0 and are ranked no. 18 in the nation.
Although unbeaten, Michigan has had some close calls this season so far, including two down-to-the-wire matchups against Akron from the MAC and UConn, who ended up firing head coach Paul Pasqualoni not long after the near-upset.
This Saturday, Michigan may be in some trouble again as they have to deal with Penn State’s dynamic true freshman QB Christian Hackenberg. Since being named the starter right before Week 1, Hackenberg has been about as great as Penn State could have asked for. The Virginia native has already tossed for 1.367 yards and eight touchdowns.
But, play on the field aside, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke pointed out how much of a leader Hackenberg is. But he wasn’t so much pointing to how effective of a leader he is at this moment, but rather how great he was at stepping up and keeping the PSU recruiting class together after the crippling sanctions were handed down.
When the sanctions were put in place, there were some who believed that Hackenberg would back out of his verbal commitment to the Lions, thus making others follow his lead. Instead, the quarterback kept his commitment and stepped up to make sure that the other recruits followed that lead instead.
It showed tremendous maturity by a young man at the time, and Hoke recently echoed that sentiment, as well as talking highly about fellow head coach Bill O’Brien:
“I think Bill and his staff have done a good job of keeping that team together when the sanctions came and all those things,” Hoke said. “They’re Penn State, they’re going to have good football players. Obviously, the quarterback is a guy who kept a lot of his class together. It tells you about his leadership.”