Haig pushing Warner for MU place-kick duties
At least on this Monday at Marshall, there was a place-kicker conundrum.
Justin Haig, the diminutive Floridian who scored the first four points of his career last weekend at Louisville, did not know if he has seized the field-goal chores from Tyler Warner.
"I have no clue, to be honest with you," the redshirt freshman said Monday. "I'm just going to go out there, practice and kick the ball. That's it.
"Life of a kicker, I guess."
That life took a turn Saturday at Louisville, after Warner missed a 48-yard field goal late in the first half and had a 19-yard chip shot blocked at the line.
Minutes after the latter mishap, coach Doc Holliday personally told Haig he would be kicking field goals and extra points. Haig, who has performed all 17 MU kickoffs so far this season, had to get busy.
"I went over and warmed up, because I don't get to warm up too much on field goals before the game [because] I'm concentrating on kickoffs," he said. "I was kicking a lot of balls on the sidelines, getting used to kicking off the ground, going through my field goal steps. Didn't really get to do that in warm-ups at all."
His first two collegiate place kicks were not long, but they were critical. He hit a 24-yard field goal with 1:00 left in the third quarter to draw the Thundering Herd to within 13-10, then hit a critical extra point after the Herd's go-ahead touchdown to set the 17-13 final score.
He said he was able to block out the surroundings and kick it just like he has in two seasons of practice. This time, he saw the payoff.
"I was really excited. Put my first points on the board and helped contribute to the win," he said. "That was the most important thing about it."
Haig put up the points, but Kase Whitehead won special teams player of the week honors handed out Monday by Conference USA. Linebacker Tyson Gale, with his game-turning interception, took defensive honors.
After an off game against Virginia Tech, Whitehead resumed his coffin-corner punting, pinning four punts inside the Louisville 20-yard line. One was downed at the 7 and another was fielded at the 7 and returned short of the 20.
Gale's interception on the sideline gave Marshall the ball at the Louisville 30 with 4:32 left. The Herd scored in five plays to take the lead for good.
The pick illustrates how important it is for defenders to catch an errant pass when the opportunity arises. Players are drilled on that in creative ways.
"When you run out of the Shewey Building to start practice, a [graduate assistant] will throw a ball at you. You've got to intercept it, or you go back and start again," Gale said. "We knock it down there, it's fourth down, they punt it, you know, they may have a 50-yard punt and you get it on the other 30-yard line.
"When you have opportunities to make that play, you make it to give your offense a shorter field, so they can go to work."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.