HUNTINGTON - Marshall offensive tackle Jordan Jeffries calls kicker Justin Haig "the world's smallest offensive lineman."
Just as 6-foot-8, 313-pound behemoths like Jeffries often must play through pain, so has the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Haig. Bad back spasms have sent Haig to treatment three times a week and put him on antibiotics and muscle relaxers to keep him in the lineup.
"I give a tremendous amount of credit to the training staff," he said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to play."
The rest of the Thundering Herd are thankful, too, and not just for the career-long 45-yard field goal that gave Marshall a 44-41 win over Houston on Saturday. Haig also came up with a tricky squib kickoff and a significant tackle.
The tackle came on Houston's attempt at a "Music City Miracle" lateral in the third quarter. Jarrett Irving initially cradled Haig's kickoff, then threw it across the field to Kenneth Farrow, who dashed 61 yards down the left sideline. It was Haig, bad back and all, who tackled Farrow at the Marshall 19. It was Haig's seventh tackle of the season.
"Haig is the best open-field tackler on the team, hands down," Jeffries said. "That's on record. We all say that. He flies down there and there's been numerous occasions where he's saved touchdowns by making a great tackle."
Then came the kickoff that followed Haig's game-winning field goal, his third field goal of the game. That squib bounced awkwardly along the Joan C. Edwards Stadium turf. And when Houston finally tracked it down, all the Cougars could do was fall on the ball at their 19 and try a lateral-fest on their final play.
"I couldn't do that again if you wanted me to," Haig said with a smile. "I couldn't have planned that squib any better."
Haig's performance, especially considering the pain he's fighting through, earned Marshall Coach Doc Holliday's utmost respect.
"Haig's one guy I'll crawl in a foxhole with any day," Holliday said. "He'll fight you. He's mentally tough and I like what that kid's all about."
HAIG'S HEROICS couldn't erase some of the special teams breakdowns, especially on kickoffs, that left Holliday shaking his head.