Kicker Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.) and freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) have been honored by the Big Ten for their performances in Penn States 23-17 win over Syracuse last Saturday at MetLife Stadium.
Ficken was selected the conferences Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in his career. He also earned the honor after last years overtime win over Wisconsin, when he hit the game-winning field goal. Hackenberg was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after directing Penn State to the win over the Orange in his first collegiate contest.
Their efforts helped head coach Bill OBriens Nittany Lions to their third consecutive game overall and their 11th win in their last 12 regular season neutral site contests.
Ficken picked up where he left off last season, when he made his last 10 field goal attempts, including three in the win over the Badgers. A junior, he made field goals of 36, 35 and 46 yards in the win over Syracuse. His career-long 46-yard connection early in the fourth quarter gave the Nittany Lions a 16-10 lead. made both of his PAT attempts and four of his six kickoffs were touchbacks.
The former Valparaiso High School standout has made his last 13 field goal attempts. He and Northwesterns Jeff Budzien were the only Big Ten kickers to make three field goals during the opening weekend of the season.
Ficken is the fifth Nittany Lion placekicker to earn multiple career Big Ten Specialist honors, joining a list that includes Robbie Gould, Travis Forney and Collin Wagner.
Hackenberg became the second true freshman quarterback to start a Penn State season opener since 1910 and directed the Nittany Lions to five scoring drives in the win over the Orange. He was 22-of-31 for 278 yards, with a pair of 50-yard touchdown passes in the second half and two interceptions His 278 yards were the third-highest total by a freshman quarterback in school history (280 -- Mills, 2001 vs. OSU and USM).
In the second half against the Orange, Hackenberg was 11 of 16 for 209 yards and two touchdowns to extend Penn States 6-3 halftime lead to a 23-10 advantage early in the fourth quarter. He connected with junior Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.) on a 51-yard catch and run early in the third period. Early in the fourth quarter, Hackenberg hit freshman Geno Lewis (Wilkes-Barre) in stride for a 54-yard scoring strike.
Hackenberg became the 27th different quarterback in school history to post a 200-yard passing game. The former Fork Union Military Academy All-American completed his first six passing attempts, with a five-yard completion to running back Zach Zwinak on the Nittany Lions first play from scrimmage.
Hackenberg ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yardage and fourth in total offense.