Grant Haley And Marcus Allen Combine To Change Penn State’s Season
If there’s two plays that will stick out the most during this stunning season, both will have one common theme — Penn State’s duo of Grant Haley and Marcus Allen had their hands all over it.
Starting with the moment that shot the Nittany Lions into the national spotlight this year, Haley and Allen earned their place in Penn State folklore.
You’ve seen the play probably a thousand times by now. You probably have nothing else but the memories of Allen rising above Ohio State’s line to block the field goal attempt, Haley taking it back to the house, and the sound of thousands screaming inside Beaver Stadium or Chris Fowler’s call, “And it’s blocked! Lions scoop it up. Grant Haley will score!,” resonating in your head.
That single play has been the one resounding visual of Penn State’s reemergence this season. Fast forward to Saturday night, and the duo returned to seal the Big Ten Championship for the Nittany Lions.
Fourth and one for Wisconsin at the Penn State 24 with just more than a minute left and the Badgers are trailing by a touchdown driving for the potential game-tying score. Haley wrapped up Wisconsin running back Corey Clement, who had given Penn State’s defense issues all night with 148 yards and a touchdown, and Allen finished up the stop to reclaim possession for the Nittany Lions and essentially end the game.
“There was an opportunity where they were going to run a counter,” Haley said. “They ran it earlier in the game and they kind of split it for a touchdown. I saw them set the edge, so I just got triggered really well, and Marcus wrapped him up and finished off the play.”
The duo has been responsible for those two huge plays this season, but they’ve also been integral parts of Penn State’s defense throughout the year.
Haley missed two-straight games after picking up an injury during the first half of the Pitt clash. His return for the Minnesota game — the double overtime victory that started this nine-game win streak — signaled a turning point for a Penn State defense that struggled through injuries during September.
Meanwhile, Allen was one of the few healthy veterans among Penn State’s key defenders during a month where Jason Cabinda, Brandon Bell, and Nyeem Wartman-White were all unavailable. Allen held down the line and helped it stay the course until Cabinda and Bell returned for the Ohio State clash.
The defense as a whole has improved by leaps and bounds since its losses to Pitt and Michigan. Two huge plays from Haley and Allen were key in securing this 11-win, Big Ten Championship season, but they all recognize this successful season was caused by more than two players on two plays.
“I think it’s the whole 11 guys out there on the field, even the coaches in the box and the scout team,” Haley said. “When it’s time to step up, I feel like any person on our defense or offense is going to step up, and it just happens to be that Marcus and I have been in two great situations.”