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Hackenberg, Olaniyan earn Big Ten honors
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior defensive end C.J. Olaniyan (Warren, Mich.) and true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) have been honored by the Big Ten Conference for their efforts in Penn State's thrilling, 43-40, four overtime win over No. 18 Michigan last Saturday.
Olaniyan was selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career and Hackenberg was named the conference's Freshman of the Week for the third time in six games. His three selections are the most by a Big Ten freshman on offense or defense since 2010 (Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois, 6; James White, Wisconsin, 4).
On Sunday, Athlon Sports selected Hackenberg as its National Freshman of the Week and Olaniyan as its Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
Coach Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lions won their fourth consecutive contest against the Wolverines in front of a raucous all-stadium White Out crowd of 107,884. The Nittany Lions are 5-1 in games after a loss under O'Brien, the 2012 Big Ten and national Coach of the Year. The Penn State-Michigan clash was the longest game in the 118-year gridiron history of the Big Ten Conference and the longest game between two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams this season. Penn State's previous longest game was its three overtime win over Florida State in the 2006 FedEx Orange Bowl.
The Penn State-Michigan game will re-air today at 8 p.m. on ESPNU and Tuesday at 3 p.m. on BTN.
Olaniyan delivered his best career game against Michigan, setting career-highs with eight tackles and 2.5 sacks (minus-18), while also forcing his first career fumble, which was recovered by DaQuan Jones. He also broke up two passes. Olaniyan was instrumental in the Penn State defense not allowing Michigan to score a touchdown in the four overtime periods and holding the Wolverines' running backs to 28 rushing yards on 30 carries.
The former Warren Mott High School standout is tied for third in the Big Ten with 3.5 sacks (minus-26) and is tied for fourth with 6.5 tackles for loss. Olaniyan is fifth on the team with 27 tackles and has one forced fumble and two pass break-ups.
Olaniyan is the sixth different Penn State defensive end since 1999, all under defensive line coach Larry Johnson, to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. He joins a distinguished list that includes: Courtney Brown, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin.
Hackenberg was instrumental in Penn State rallying from a 10-point deficit with less than 7:00 to play, forcing overtime by directing an 80-yard touchdown drive, with no timeouts, in :23. He tied the game at 34-34 with :27 on a one-yard touchdown run, the first of his career, and the first rushing touchdown allowed by the Wolverines this season.
Hackenberg was 23 of 44 for 305 yards against Michigan, tying his career-high with three touchdowns for the second consecutive game. He threw two interceptions. The former Fork Union Military Academy All-American tossed 12 and 24-yard scoring strikes to Brandon Felder (Fort Washington, Md.) and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James (Glassport) to help Penn State build a 21-10 lead.
With Penn State trailing, 34-27, with :50 to play, the Nittany Lions forced a punt and took possession at their own 20-yard-line with no timeouts. Hackenberg hit Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.) on a 14-yard sideline strike and then Felder snared a 29-yard completion to the Michigan 37. Robinson then made a leaping grab at the one-yard-line to set-up Hackenberg's sneak, sending Beaver Stadium into a frenzy.
For the season, Hackenberg is 132 of 226 (58.4) for 1,672 yards, with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He leads the Big Ten in completions and passing yardage (278.7 ypg), is tied for third in touchdown passes and fourth in total offense. Hackenberg is the only Big Ten quarterback with multiple 300-yard, three touchdown efforts this season. The rest of the Big Ten quarterbacks have no more than two such games.
Hackenberg posted his third 300-yard passing game, tying him with Daryll Clark (2006-09) for third most in school history. He trails only Matt McGloin's six 300-yard games and Kerry Collins' four career 300-yard efforts. Hackenberg has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice this season.
Penn State (4-2, 1-1) is idle this week and returns to action Oct. 26 at No. 4 Ohio State. The game will kick at 8 p.m. and be an ABC national telecast, as well as the Penn State Sports Network.