Nov. 25, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard has been named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually since 1986 to the nation's top defensive back by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Dennard becomes the second Spartan player in school history to be selected as a finalist for the award, joining Todd Krumm (one of 10 finalists in 1987).
Other finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award include: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. The winner will be announced and presented the trophy at The Home Deport College Football Awards show, which will air live on Thursday, Dec. 12 from 7-9 p.m. ET on ESPN from the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney's BoardWalk at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 23rd annual awards show will be hosted by ESPN's Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Tom Rinaldi and Samantha Ponder.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Dennard previously was named one of five finalists the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the nation's top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club. He also was recently named the No. 3 defensive player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision by CBSSports.com.
Dennard, who has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, leads the Spartans in passes defended (11), pass break-ups (7) and interceptions (4). He ranks fifth on the team in tackles (47) and production points (176). Dennard has been credited with 2.5 tackles for losses (6 yards) and ranks among the Big Ten leaders in interceptions (tied for second) and passes defended (tied for eighth at 1.0 per game). He helps anchor a defensive unit that ranks among the NCAA FBS Top 10 in six different stat categories: rushing defense (first at 59.4 yards per game), total defense (first at 236.6 ypg.), passing efficiency defense (second with 93.7 rating), scoring defense (fourth at 12.5 points per game), turnover margin (sixth at +1.3 per game) and passing defense (eighth at 177.3 ypg.).
Dennard was a Midseason All-Big Ten (first-team) selection by ESPN.com, Phil Steele and BTN.com.
He recorded a career-best nine tackles and an interception in Michigan State's 30-6 victory at Northwestern, as the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Legends Division title for the second time in three seasons. It marked Dennard's personal best fourth interception of the season and 10th of his career. MSU's defense pitched a shutout in the second half against the Wildcats while allowing just seven first downs and 95 total yards. It also marked the fifth time this season that the Spartans had shut out a Big Ten opponent in the second half.
Dennard produced an impressive all-around effort in the win over No. 23 Michigan, as MSU held the Wolverines out of the end zone for the second consecutive season. He picked off a Devin Gardner pass at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans proceeded to march 97 yards on an eight-play touchdown drive to seal the 29-6 victory. Dennard also forced a fumble and collected four tackles against the Wolverines.
Dennard produced seven tackles in Michigan State's 14-0 victory over Purdue, including a half tackle for loss (1 yard). MSU's defense recorded its first shutout since 2011 (44-0 over Florida Atlantic) and its first against a Big Ten opponent since 1999 (34-0 at Northwestern).
He totaled five tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass break-up in MSU's 42-28 Homecoming win over Indiana, as the Spartans limited IU to season lows in passing offense (259 yards) and total offense (351). The Hoosiers entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in total offense (535.0 ypg.) and 10th in passing offense (346.0 ypg.).
Dennard was selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles and a career-high two interceptions in MSU's 26-14 win at Iowa. The Spartan defense limited the Hawkeyes to 264 total yards - 183 yards below their season average. In addition, MSU held Iowa to 23 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) - 221 yards below its season average. Michigan State shut out the Hawkeyes in the second half, as Iowa managed just six first downs, 6 rushing yards and 104 total yards in the final two quarters. Dennard's second interception at the 5:25 mark in the fourth quarter helped ice the game, and it marked the third multi-interception game of his career (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Georgia, 2012 vs. Nebraska).
The Dry Branch, Ga., native was credited with five tackles, including a half tackle for loss (2 yards), a QB hurry and two pass break-ups in MSU's 21-6 victory over South Florida. In the season opener, Dennard matched his career-high with three pass break-ups in MSU's 26-13 win over Western Michigan.
Dennard is in his third season as a starting cornerback for the Spartans. He has collected 152 tackles and 27 passes defended (17 pass break-ups, 10 interceptions) in 41 career games, including 37 starts (26 consecutive).
Michigan State (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten), ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches Polls as well as the Bowl Championship Series standings, entertains Minnesota in the home finale on Saturday, Nov. 30 (12 p.m. ET kickoff on BTN). The Spartans will face No. 3 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 7 in Indianapolis, Ind.
The award is named in honor of Jim Thorpe, who was born May 28, 1888, on a Sac and Fox Indiana Reservation at Prague, Okla. He played halfback for the Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School from 1907-08 and again from 1911-12. In 44 career games, he scored 53 touchdowns and 421 points. In 1912, Thorpe led the nation in TDs (29) and points scored (224). Besides his accomplishments in football, he was a one-man track team and excelled in basketball, lacrosse, baseball and all other sports he attempted. At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon. He played pro football from 1915-28 and Major League Baseball from 1913-19. In 1950, Thorpe was named the greatest athlete of the half-century from 1900-49 by The Associated Press sports editors. He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
The three Jim Thorpe Award finalists will be highlighted on ESPNU during The Home Depot College Football Awards Nomination Special, which airs Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
The Jim Thorpe Award Banquet will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Oklahoma City, Okla., at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.