QBs get to have more fun

Kerry Collins, widely considered the best quarterback in Penn State history, had four 300-yard passing games in his college career.

Christian Hackenberg already has five – in only 13 games – and is coming off a school-record performance of 454 yards.

It’s not an apples to apples comparison with Collins and Hackenberg, simply because the college game that Collins played at PSU in the early 1990s hardly resembles what we see today.

It seems like everybody is throwing the ball a ton nowadays. Even PSU’s opponent this week, Akron, threw for 400 yards in its opener.

“The game has changed tremendously, but I think it’s for the better,” said Penn State receiver Geno Lewis, who had 173 receiving yards against Central Florida. “I like it the way it is now, and I just hope it stays the way it is.”

There’s no reason to believe it won’t.

“If you think about it, the linebackers and defensive linemen just get bigger and bigger every year, and it just puts people in position where they have to be able to throw the ball,” Lewis said.

Collins and the great, undefeated 1994 Penn State team will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game at Beaver Stadium. Hackenberg hasn’t yet met Collins, who went on to play in the NFL for 17 seasons and helped lead the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV, but he should get that opportunity Friday or Saturday.

When they do meet, it will be a great photo opp, since it essentially could be a passing of the torch in many ways.

Collins is the last Big Ten quarterback to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft – way back in 1995. If Hackenberg continues to progress as expected, he would seem to be a lock to go in the first round of the 2016 draft after his junior year.

“I know they’re probably the best offense in Penn State history,” Hackenberg said of the 1994 squad. “A lot of great players came from that team It’s a great opportunity for us to really learn more about that team and what they did here. Obviously we know the history of the team, but actually getting to be able to see those guys will be cool.”

Collins won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top player in 1994 after throwing for 2,679 yards and 21 TDs as a senior.

Again, just to show how much the game has changed, Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 TDs last season as a true freshman.

Slinging the ball all over the place is just the way the game is played now. Hackenberg threw 47 passes last week, in large part because Penn State couldn’t run the ball, and there are plenty of reasons to believe he will have to keep putting up big attempts numbers as the season goes on.

“It goes back to doing whatever it takes for us to win football games, whether it’s handing the ball off 40 times or throwing 40 times,” Hackenberg said. “Whatever we need to do as a team and as an offense that week, I’m going to try to do my part the best I can that we do that and execute it to the best of our ability.”

Penn State’s current quarterback knows all too well how much more reliance there is on throwing the ball than in years past.

“I think it’s just part of the evolution of the game,” Hackenberg said.

“You see in the NFL, people are getting faster and stronger, so you can’t rely on a running back for a long period of time to be able to take 30 and 40 carries a game,” he added. “You really have to start throwing the football, and I think that you’ve seen that transition, especially in the NFL. And it’s starting to trickle down into college game, even high school in some areas across the country.”