"There's still an aura around this program," Hackenberg told GrantLand.com. "What they built, you can't take that away. Of course the initial reaction was, 'What is going to happen?' But I think when the guys decided to stick around, and when our class decided to stick around, I think that made a statement that we're not going to let it die."
Hackenberg has done everything in his power to not let that happen. Despite it being just his first-year on the job, the Virginia high school product has nearly 2,400 yards with 14 touchdowns.
"He's a guy who doesn't get rattled very easy," said Nebraska assistant Terry Joseph. "Although he's a freshman, he's played ten games. He's been groomed to be a quarterback his whole life. He played that overtime against Michigan and made some big throws late.
With possibly the best wide receiver in the Big Ten in Allen Robinson and two big-time tight end targets, Hackenberg has weapons to slice a secondary apart.
"When I watch a guy, I see where his tools are at. He's got big time arm talent. He's really smart and understands their offense, even for a true freshman," said Joseph. "You can look at the film and really see that they aren't holding a lot back when it comes to the offense. He gets them into the right plays, the right situations, and uses the weapons he has. He has weapons that can put in you tough situations. The big thing for us is on late downs, we have to be good tacklers."
"It will be important for us to hold our shell as long as we can and get some of our pressures going...He's done a good job being coached up for a long time and knows how to look guys off. We have to get our guys in the right spot."