Christian Hackenberg might be a true freshman starting for Penn State, but Nebraska will see a different quarterback than Nittany Lion opponents saw earlier this season.
PSU coach Bill O'Brien said the staff has increased the package for Hackenberg, who has thrown for 2,399 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
“If you look at last week's game against Purdue, he made a lot more decisions at the line of scrimmage than he probably had made in most games,” O'Brien said. “Some of those decisions he made on his own, based on film study, which is really, really good. That's when you know that a guy is starting to get it.
“So he's made tremendous strides and we've continued to feed him more and more of the playbook on a weekly basis.”
Hackenberg has completed 50 of 80 passes in the Lions' last three games (62.5 percent), throwing for 615 yards with just one interception.
Matchup features top receivers
Some of the Big Ten's top receivers will be on the field Saturday when Penn State hosts Nebraska.
Nittany Lions junior Allen Robinson leads the league in both catches (81) and receiving yards (1,204). O'Brien took over Penn State after Robinson's freshman season.
“He was raw ... but you could tell right away that he was going to be a really, really explosive, good player,” O'Brien said. “He's worked at it. He's been coached well — I think he's in a good system for what we do — but give him a lot of credit. He's done a great job and gone up and made some fantastic plays for us over the last two years.”
Nebraska counters with senior Quincy Enunwa (41 receptions, eight TDs) and junior Kenny Bell (39 receptions, four TDs).
“I think this is the best receiving corps we're going to be facing all year,” Penn State cornerback Jordan Lucas said.
Price may start at NU guard spot
Sophomore guard Givens Price could join Nebraska's starting lineup Saturday if a couple of injured veterans on the interior of NU's offensive line aren't healthy enough to play.
Senior Cole Pensick (knee) and junior Jake Cotton (knee) have both been limited in practice this week.
If those two are out, Price has emerged as the top replacement so far at the left guard spot, according to offensive line coach John Garrison. Sophomore Ryne Reeves is an option at that position, too. He played about 20 snaps in the second half against Michigan State last week.
New 'gunner' will join punt team
The Huskers are searching for a new key member of their punt coverage team after sophomore Daniel Davie suffered a season-ending knee injury against Michigan State.
Davie was one of Nebraska's main gunners, often the first potential tackler downfield.
Junior Josh Mitchell, senior Stanley Jean-Baptiste, senior Andrew Green, sophomore Charles Jackson and sophomore Jonathan Rose are among the players working at that position.
Mitchell's been contributing in that role all year, though his in-game reps are sometimes limited. Secondary coach Terry Joseph said he's often trying to predict if there will be a media timeout after the punt before deciding who covers the kick.
“The tough thing for Josh is he has to run all the way down there and if we don't get a (timeout), he's got to stay out and play defense,” Joseph said.
The coaches will continue to evaluate the position. They're likely to use multiple players.
Coach aware of Twitter's 'Faux Pelini'
Coach Bo Pelini said on his radio call-in show Wednesday night that he's aware of a popular parody Twitter account based off his personality and likeness. But Pelini doesn't know who's running it.
A Husker fan called in Wednesday and asked Pelini about that fictional persona, known in social media circles as Faux Pelini.
“From what I understand he provides a lot of entertainment for a lot of people,” Pelini said. “So he obviously has a lot going for him.”
The parody account, often mocking and sarcastic in its over-the-top portrayals of the Husker head coach, has more than 49,000 followers. Pelini acknowledged that he's heard the profile's avatar is a digitally altered picture of him holding a cat.
“They say he's funny as heck,” Pelini said.