Penn State senior cornerback Daequan Hardy had never returned a punt in college before today, but in his first career start, he made history.
With the Nittany Lions playing UMass, head coach James Franklin decided it was the perfect time to experiment with a new punt returner as the veteran Hardy replaced redshirt freshman wide receiver Kaden Saunders at the position.
Hardy instantly rewarded his coach by returning a first quarter UMass punt 61 yards for a touchdown. The return put Penn State up 7-0 early in the game.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 14, 2023
Fast forward to the third quarter with Penn State up 42-0, and Hardy was still back there returning punts. Hardy fielded a CJ Kolodziey punt later in the game and made a few guys miss, taking it 68 yards for his second punt return touchdown of the game.
The score put Penn State up 49-0 and put the game comfortably away for the Nittany Lions, as they prepare to head to Columbus in a battle of 6-0 teams next Saturday with Ohio State.
Hardy became the first Penn State player to ever return two punts for touchdowns in the same game, and he did it in his first career start at the position.
— David Malandra Jr (@DaveMReports) October 14, 2023
A fifth-year senior from Pittsburgh, PA, Hardy has been a vital piece of Penn State's strong defense over the past few years, appearing in 33 games with five career interceptions while playing the nickel back position in the Penn State defense. With future NFL talents like Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington returning punts in the prior seasons that Hardy was on the roster, he was not asked to tackle that challenge.
But, as his college career winds down, Hardy was finally given the opportunity to return punts, and he ran with it, in historic fashion.
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