For the fifth time in his first year as a Nittany Lion, the signal-caller has been honored by the Big Ten as its Freshman of the Week following his four-touchdown performance against No. 14-ranked Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon.
Completing 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards with four touchdowns, Hackenberg helped guide Penn State to its best win of the season with, arguably, his best game of the season.
Asked after the game whether or not he thought it had been his best game of the season, Hackenberg still exhibited the deference preached by head coach Bill O'Brien moments earlier when he popped into the post-game media room and blurted with a smile, "Short answers and talk about your teammates. You're so blessed to be here at Penn State."
The reporters crowding around Hackenberg laughed, the quarterback paid his head coach no mind, and the questions and answers continued.
"I felt like it was one of my better ones, yeah," Hackenberg said.
Jumping out to an early 7-0 lead against the Badgers following a 7-yard completion to open the first possession and a 68-yard catch and touchdown run by fellow true freshman tight end Adam Breneman, Hackenberg said everything fell into place for Penn State's offense after that.
"That's been our emphasis all year, but we were able to do it," he said, noting the team's insistence at getting off to a hot start on Saturday. "Breneman made a great run and catch the third play of the game, and I think that really helped us get on our horse. Then we just started executing and everything came together as a unit."
Certainly, it did.
Finishing the game with his four touchdown passes and three big bombs, including Breneman's 68-yarder, plus completions of 59 yards for a touchdown to Geno Lewis and a 52-yard catch and run by Allen Robinson, Hackenberg easily eclipsed 200 yards passing for the ninth time of the year, moving himself into a tie at Penn State for eighth place alongside Todd Blackledge and Wally Richardson in the category.
Finishing the season with 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, Hackenberg said the season's finish can only help send the team into the improvements it'd like to make during the offseason.
"I've always been confident in what I can do and what we can do as a unit so I think it's confidence for all of us going into the off season starting to work," he said. "Now we have a year under our belts, so a lot of the young guys - Geno, Allen, the tight ends - we have 12 games under our belts, so going into the offseason, I think that helps build chemistry and focus on what we need to do to get better next year."
* An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Hackenberg had no touchdowns Saturday. He had four.