Ask Herb Haygood what he brings to the team and the first thing hell 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 MSUs 27-21 win over Notre Dame.
Coach said big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games and I guess thats a big play, he said.
With MSU losing 21-20 with just under eight minutes left in the game, Haygood said Notre Dame wasnt heading home victorious.
I told someone earlier, Were not going to lose the game, he said. I had a lot of confidence when I said that, and I believed that. Were closing the game and were going to win.
Haygoods 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 didnt have a lot of faith in us since we lost two of the best receivers in the Big Ten, Haygood said. Were young, we dont have a lot of experience but were going to go out and play hard like everyone else.
While Haygoods touchdown delighted the Spartan faithful, head coach Bobby Williams was happy to finally see Haygoods fabled speed.
I said, Herb, Ive been waiting to see that for a long time, he said. Hes been talking about that 4.4 speed and we finally saw it tonight. You talk about a big play, thats probably the biggest play Ive 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.
Hes from Florida. Thats all youve got to say, he said. You say Florida, you say speed, so thats what Herb Haygood is.