Harvey Levine/FOS

Short Memory Key For Penn State's Haley

It took some time, but the sophomore cornerback said he got past his mistake near the end of a loss to Northwestern.

You’ve heard, of course, of the 24-Hour Rule. Comes up all the time. Football players, it is said, have that long to celebrate a victory or get over a loss.

Only it’s often not that simple. And that has proven especially true in the case of Penn State sophomore cornerback Grant Haley, who marinated in his misery much longer after the Nittany Lions’ 23-21 loss at Northwestern on Nov. 7.

“It kind of stuck with me a little bit,” he said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week.

Especially since he had an extra week to think about it, what with the Lions (7-3) idle last week.

And especially since he had the game in his hands. Literally.

With about two minutes left and PSU trying to protect a 21-20 lead, Northwestern quarterback Zack Oliver, facing a second-and-15 from his own 41, threw a pass right to Haley.

And he dropped it.

On the very next play Oliver hit Austin Carr for a gain of 23, against Haley’s coverage. And seven plays after that, the Wildcats’ Jack Mitchell kicked the decisive 35-yard field goal with nine seconds left.

“I definitely learned from the experience,” Haley said. “It’s kind of hard not to. It was just one of those things, it will stick with me, but I think I learned from it, knowing what that feels like and then just going back to the drawing board after — just putting that as a point that it will never happen again.”

He said head coach James Franklin has helped buck him up since then. So too have defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, secondary coach Terry Smith and the other cornerbacks.

“I just kind of tried to get my confidence back, kind of clear my mind for a little bit,” Haley said, “but you know just having those guys help, my confidence is great.” 

It will need to be intact this week, with No. 14/13 Michigan (8-2), led by new coach Jim Harbaugh, visiting Beaver Stadium for a noon kick on ABC.

Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, threw for a career-high 448 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in last Saturday’s 48-41 double-overtime victory at Indiana. One of the TD passes, a five-yarder to Jehu Chesson with two seconds left in regulation, tied the game. Another, a 25-yarder to Amara Darboh in the second OT, won it.

Rudock shared Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors with Chesson, who caught a career-high 10 balls for 208 yards and four scores, the latter tying a school record. Darboh finished with eight catches for 109 yards, and tight end Jake Butt had seven receptions for 82.

“Their offense is really clicking right now,” Haley said. “It will be a good challenge for us. … They’re really finding a way to get a lot of people involved.”

And Rudock, who has nine touchdown passes and two picks in his last three games, has really settled in, in Haley’s estimation.

“I think he’s really just understanding the offense more,” Haley said. “He’s feeling really comfortable now. He’s played in some tight games, so he’s really controlling the team and the offense really well. He’s a fighter. That’s what their team does, and it’s just going to come down to who wants it more.”

Certainly the Lions don’t lack for motivation. They will be playing before a White Out, and hoping to finish unbeaten at home for the first time since 2008. But the biggest thing is that it’s Senior Day, and they want to send their 19 departing seniors out on a good note.

Of those seniors, Haley is particularly close to safety Jordan Lucas, who was lost for the season to a shoulder injury in the Northwestern game, and fellow corner Trevor Williams. Lucas has been Haley’s road roommate, and besides offering on-field advice has talked to him about “becoming, like, a man,” as Haley put it.

“And Trevor has really stepped up and become a leader this year,” Haley said. “He really helped me with my technique and my confidence, because he’s told me he’s been through it, he knows the ups and downs at corner and that’s just going to happen.”

One of the things Williams has emphasized is the importance of having a short memory — forgetting a bad play and moving on to the next one.

Or the next game, as the case may be.

Haley is trying to do that very thing, right now.

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