Bloomington, Ind. – James Hardy thinks he's taken the risk out of the classic high-risk, high-reward play in college football for Hoosier quarterback Kellen Lewis.
In Hardy's mind, when a quarterback airs it out downfield in his direction, they aren't putting it up for grabs, but rather putting it up for him to grab.
That's why Hardy feels the need to chime in when Lewis says he hasn't had a deep ball picked off when he's hoisted it in Hardy's direction. At least not yet…
"And you won't," Hardy says.
Hardy rewarded Lewis twice on deep balls in Saturday's 55-7 win over Indiana State, hauling in touchdown strikes of 58 and 79 yards in the first half. It's nothing new for Hardy, who has caught 22 touchdowns in 22 collegiate games and has developed a reputation for being able to make acrobatic plays downfield.
Having a player of Hardy's status and stature has taken some getting used to for Lewis.
"Coming from high school, I didn't have a wide receiver over 6'1" or 6'0"," Lewis said. "So the idea of me just throwing it up is kind of hard for me. I was used to waiting for this guy to come open."
Hardy did get open twice behind the ISU secondary, getting plenty of separation on his way to his two big scores. But he's also proven that he's able to out-duel cornerbacks as well when both are jockeying for position downfield. That's due in part to Hardy's hands, but more importantly to his height.
Now that the duo have a year of experience together and an off-season of work under their belts, Lewis has become equally confident in Hardy's propensity for making something big happen when give the chance downfield.
"Playing with him last year, throwing with him this summer…it's one of those things once he's done it once, you get more and more confidence," Lewis said. "The more and more he does it the more you don't mind taking that 50-50 risk.
"Or in his case, because of his height, that 90-10 risk. In most cases he's going to make a play on the ball."
Lewis will do that again this weekend, but he'll be facing a much stiffer test than in the opener. Western Michigan returns its secondary pretty much in tact from a year ago when it led the nation with 24 interceptions. It's a big, physical set of defensive backs that's led by safeties Louis Delmas and C.J. Wilson and cornerback E.J. Biggers, a trio that combined for 11 interceptions last season.
"The secondary is probably the strongest part of their defense," Hardy said. "They have mostly everyone coming back. We just have to find holes."
Or, if all else fails, just hoist it up and let Hardy make a play.
"He's got much higher reward than risk," Lewis said. "So keep throwing him the ball."
Hardy's Pitch to Lewis Catching on
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