James Franklin made sure to take time out of one of his final press conferences before the season started to recognize Daequan Hardy. Franklin noted the value of having such an experienced and skilled nickleback and the importance of his role for the rest of the Penn State defense. He especially appreciated the fact that Hardy remained loyal to Penn State despite the fact he could be the number one corner at many other programs, and his continued presence and dependability will go a long ways toward helping unleash Manny Diaz’s ultra-agressive style.
Hardy’s performance didn’t need a special callout on Saturday, as his ability as a differnce-maker was on full display as the Nittany Lions rolled past UMASS 63-0.
As the game was stuck at 0-0 after two Nittany Lion possessions failed to produce points, Hardy had a spectacular two-play sequence to get Penn State on the board. UMASS faced a third and six from its own 14, hoping to find a spark and capitalize on the defense’s first two stops. However, Hardy joined Curtis Jacob to snuff out a screen pass for a one yard loss to force a UMASS punt.
Hardy then lined up deep to return the punt where he made the first man miss, then the second, then smoothly raced to the end zone with the help of some fantastic well-maintained blocks from the Nittany Lions punt return unit.
Hardy picked up right where he left off immediately in the second half. UMASS quarterback Taisun Phommachanh was desperate to do something with the first possession, looking deep to playmaker Anthony Simpson. Despite a well-thrown ball, Hardy stayed glued on Simpson before batting the ball away.
Later in the third quarter, Hardy would strike again. On his third punt return attempt of the day, Hardy used his world-class speed for a 68-yard explosion, his second return touchdown of the day. It was the first time in the history of the program that a player returned two punt returns for scores in the same game. In fact, Hardy is now tied for the most punt return touchdowns in a season after just three attempts.
Hardy was once seriously considering a handful of MAC programs as his likely college destination. On Saturday, he thrilled a Homecoming crowd to prove he’s a difference-maker for one of the best teams in the nation.
QB Drew Allar- Allar completed 70 percent of his passed despite a couple of drops in sloppy conditions. He also accounted for four touchdowns, and yet again, did not turn the ball over.
TE Theo Johnson- It was great to see Allar looking Johnson’s way to stretch the field, something he did with great success during the second half of the ‘22 season. Johnson led the team with 66 receiving yards and two scores, which is hopefully the start of a trend for the explosive tight end.
Multiple Sack Club- Penn State’s pass rush was once again relentless from start to finish on Saturday. Adissa Isaac led the way with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 TFLs, while Chop Robinson and Cam Miller chipped in two sacks each.