Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Haygood explodes on Irish

September 25, 2000
Junior wide receiver Herb Haygood runs down the field to score the winning touchdown on a fourth-down conversion Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans pulled ahead in the final minutes to defeat Notre Dame 27-21. —

Ask Herb Haygood what he brings to the team and the first thing he’ll say is speed.

Even though the junior receiver was tied for second on the squad with seven receptions heading into the Notre Dame game Saturday, Haygood had not displayed his wheels in the first two games this year.

So if there were any doubts about his claims, Haygood erased them Saturday as he bolted 68 yards upfield en route to scoring the game-winning touchdown with 1:48 remaining in MSU’s 27-21 win over Notre Dame.

“Coach said big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games and I guess that’s a big play,” he said.

With MSU losing 21-20 with just under eight minutes left in the game, Haygood said Notre Dame wasn’t heading home victorious.

“I told someone earlier, ‘We’re not going to lose the game,’” he said. “I had a lot of confidence when I said that, and I believed that. We’re closing the game and we’re going to win.”

Haygood’s prediction turned out to be prophetic. With just under two minutes left in regulation, Haygood ran a slant pattern and caught a pass over the middle from freshman quarterback Jeff Smoker on fourth -and-10 at the MSU 32 yard line and proceeded to pull away from Irish defensive backs Tony Driver and Shane Walton in similar fashion to Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.

“I was trying to score. I had a lot of confidence,” Haygood said. “It was fourth-and-10 and I knew that play was open the play before. I went over and told coach and he had enough confidence in me to call it again.”

Haygood had only three catches for 92 yards and the touchdown on the day. The Sarasota, Fla. native, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, said he hopes his performance will silence the critics who have doubted the Spartan receiving corps since Plaxico Burress and Gari Scott turned pro.

“A lot of people didn’t have a lot of faith in us since we lost two of the best receivers in the Big Ten,” Haygood said. “We’re young, we don’t have a lot of experience but we’re going to go out and play hard like everyone else.”

While Haygood’s touchdown delighted the Spartan faithful, head coach Bobby Williams was happy to finally see Haygood’s fabled speed.

“I said, ‘Herb, I’ve been waiting to see that for a long time,’” he said. “He’s been talking about that 4.4 speed and we finally saw it tonight. You talk about a big play, that’s probably the biggest play I’ve seen here in a long time.”

While Haygood said he was primarily thinking about scoring, Williams said the play was designed to get a first down.

“We were trying to get a first down and they just happened to be in an all-out blitz and they were matched across man with no free safety and it was a hit or miss,” he said.

Tyrell Dortch, a freshman tailback who made his college debut Saturday, is one of the faster players on the team. Still, he said Haygood has some serious speed.

“He’s from Florida. That’s all you’ve got to say,” he said. “You say Florida, you say speed, so that’s what Herb Haygood is.”

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