He's only two games into his college football career, but freshman James Hardy has already solidified himself as the team's go-to-guy, game breaker and lifesaver.
Hardy followed up his five-catch, 107-yard performance at Central Michigan with eight catches for 122 yards and the game-winning touchdown to help the Hoosiers knock off Nicholls State, 35-31.
"I had this in my mind before the game – every game," said Hardy about his game winning catch. "I see myself doing it before it happens. On the way from the hotel and on the bus, I'll be looking out the window, listening to music and daydreaming. I see myself doing everything and I just come out here and try to do it."
Hardy already has 13 catches after two games and leads the Hoosiers with 229 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging a Big Ten-best 17.6 yards every time he touches the ball after a 54-yard catch against Central Michigan and a 39-yard grab against Nicholls State.
But Hardy's value is well beyond just the numbers he's already put up. He has already gained the trust of his teammates as the playmaker.
"He told me to throw him the ball because he thought he could make a play, and I knew that he would," said sophomore quarterback Blake Powers. "I didn't care how many people were on him, I was going to throw him the ball.
"There were two guys on him going down the sideline on the deep pass, and I didn't care. I just threw him the ball because I knew he would go up and make the catch. Great players make great plays when you need them, and that's what he did (against Nicholls State) - twice."
Hardy's play was expected to be limited by an aggravated achilles injury, but his stellar play has kept him on the field. The injury has continued to nag him but has not stopped him from averaging 114.5 receiving yards a game, best in the Big Ten after the first two weeks of the season.
"I'm not going to say I'm the go-to-guy already," said Hardy. "When the time comes I'm going to play to the best of my abilities. It's not that I'm demanding the ball, but I told Blake if you get the opportunity to look my way – look. I'm just another player."
After making just two catches through the first three quarters against Nicholls, Hardy broke out in the final period with six catches. He had four catches for 64 yards on the game-winning drive alone, capped off with the go-ahead score on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone.
"Coach told me the ball was going to come my way because I sort of asked him ‘Can I get the ball,'" said Hardy. "He said they were going to come to me and I just made catch after catch. I have to do my job. We were losing. I just wanted to get the win. Everybody was down and we needed something to happen."
Hardy is in elite company with his fast start. He is the first Indiana freshman to have 100-plus receiving yards in his first two games. His debut against CMU was the first 100-plus yard game for a freshman in his first game as a Hoosier and the first since Levron Williams had 105 yards against Ohio State in 1998. He is already tied for 15th all-time on the Indiana 100-yard receiving games list after just two games.
A Hearty Dose of Hardy
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