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Insider

Christian Hackenberg struggles in opener

It was a long day for Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union).

The Penn State commit -- and ESPN's No. 16 overall prospect -- struggled Saturday behind a shaky offensive line and a solid Hermitage (Richmond, Va.) defense in a 38-0 loss.

The 6-foot-4, 212-pound quarterback went just 13-of-27 for 141 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He fumbled once.

"You just got to stand tall in the pocket and just sort of take it," Hackenberg told ESPNU after the game. "It's part of the game."

Hackenberg didn't look like the nation's No. 1 signal-caller, but he was often forced to throw on the run and had little time in the pocket. He was sacked six times and hit on at least nine occasions.

Overshadowed: Hermitage QB Niko Johnson impressed in his first career start by finishing 10-of-19 for 143 yards and one interception. Hermitage tailback Derrick Green — the No. 53 player in the nation — flashed some power and had 135 yards rushing.

Nice Play: Hackenberg impressed on his first pass. On 2nd-and-18, with a collapsing pocket, Hackenberg stepped up and fired a rocket over the middle without setting his feet. The receiver caught the spiral about 11 yards downfield and was able to run another eight for the 19-yard first down. What it showed: Good composure and great accuracy.

Longest Pass: Early in the fourth quarter, Fork Union decided to go deep. Hermitage's defensive end ran around the edge unblocked, but Hackenberg was able to shake him and roll left. While on the move, he tossed a 39-yard spiral -- slightly underthrown -- to a downfield receiver with two defensive backs surrounding him. It was the longest completion of the day. What it showed: Great arm strength, especially for throwing on the run.

Big Mistake: On the first drive, on a 4th-and-2 play, Fork Union decided to call a short pass play. Hackenberg took a three-step drop ... but held on to the ball for a long time. A Hermitage player eventually came around, smacked him from the blind side and knocked the ball loose. Fumble. What it showed: That wasn't the only time Hackenberg held onto the ball too long. It's good he's not trying to force throws, but his internal clock needs to get a little better.

Key Number: Six. Number of sacks against Hackenberg, four of which came in the first half. The offensive line struggled, the running game sputtered and everything seemed to fall on Hackenberg's shoulders. He couldn't catch a break.

The Bad: About five of Hackenberg's 24 passes were overthrown. Three other balls were dropped by wideouts.

Quotables: "He does a great job of stepping up. We got to make sure we get some pressure because most of the passes he completes are in the middle of the field." - Hermitage coach Patrick Kane at halftime

Shifting Gameplan: Once Fork Union showed it couldn't stop the pass-rush -- six blockers couldn't stop four defensive linemen -- it focused on short, quick slants early in the second half. That seemed to work better, but Hermitage's defense adjusted after Hackenberg tossed three straight completions.