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Penn State Football: Haley Shines As Defense Swarms Pitt

by on September 10, 2017 10:20 AM

Grant Haley doesn't talk much, and when he does, it can be hard to hear him.

That was until Haley stood up pregame

"He doesn't talk as much," Safety Marcus Allen said after Penn State's 33-14 win over Pitt on Saturday. "But when he does talk he's really emotional before the game. That just pumps you up even more. You ever see Friday Night Lights? When Preacher Man was hyped up? That's how Grant was."

Whatever he said, it worked. Penn State's defense forced three turnovers and racked up five sacks and nine tackles for a loss. One of those turnovers, an interception by Haley early in the game. And Haley nearly added another touchdown return to his name before getting tripped up at the final moment.

"My eyes got a little big," Haley said of seeing the endzone. "But he tripped me up."

For a player who has been staple of Penn State's defense for years Haley is often an overlooked asset. He's physical, he's dependable and by in large teams avoid him in coverage. On Saturday it was hard to forget about the Atlanta native as he flew around the field, hitting everything that moved.

Be it veteran poise of simply being ready to go, Haley reminded a fairly young group of defenders around him that the old guy still has plenty in the tank. Haley's first career sack on a corner blitz elicited a cheer from the bench and the stands. He might be quiet, but he's still one of the best corners in the Big Ten. And not long removed from his blocked field goal return against Ohio State, his place in history is already secure.

"Coach Smith talks about it," Haley added. "Playing in big games the game slows down for you so it has definitely slowed down for me, I'm seeing a lot of things and watching film. For the younger guys they're just getting their feet wet but they've been doing a great job and when they get their chances they've been capitalizing on their opportunities and I think it's a great balance of the younger guys and older guys."

Now Penn State looks ahead to Sunday's updated rankings and far less stressful meeting with Georgia State next weekend, but for a few final hours Haley will enjoy the win in a game he had been waiting a year to play in.

"I was fired up, last year I got hurt in the first series in last year's game," Haley said. "So I've been anticipating this year's game every since we lost to them. Coaches did a great job, we had a great game plan and we felt loose and comfortable out there."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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