Parker White, USC celebrate comeback win
Parker White didn’t have a neuralyzer, but he had the next best thing.
White, South Carolina’s freshman place kicker, joked Saturday that he was wishing at halftime for a neuralyzer, the make-believe device used in the movie “Men in Black” to erase memories. At that point, White had a lot he wanted to forget. He had missed two field goals, a 34- and 46-yarder, against Louisiana Tech, making him 0-for-4 in his short career.
He finally found something at the end of the game that will make everyone forget about that, though – a 31-yard game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining to lift the Gamecocks past the Bulldogs, 17-16.
“I told Parker at halftime, ‘You are going the distance. I’m not taking you out. We are going to put you back in there, and you need to make the kick, and you’ll probably win the game for us,’ ” coach Will Muschamp said. “It turned out that’s the way it worked out.”
Some of Muschamp’s faith in White was born of necessity. Backup Alexander Woznick, who started the season as the regular place-kicker, wasn’t available Saturday because of a groin injury. The deciding kick was always going to be White’s, which was probably fine with Louisiana Tech when he trotted onto the field after Bryan Edwards hauled in a 41-yard pass from Jake Bentley to set up the attempt.
Bulldogs coach Skip Holtz called back-to-back timeouts to let White have plenty of time to think about his earlier misses, but the final kick split the uprights and had plenty of room to spare.
“He was confident (before the kick),” Muschamp said. “I told him, ‘What’d I tell you at halftime?’ and he started laughing. He’s a very confident young man.”
White, a walk-on, wasn’t feeling as confident as he led his coach to believe before the last kick, he said.
“It’s tough because we don’t have the little ‘Men In Black’ thing to erase our memory, so it’s going to be in the back of your head,” he said. “I had people coming up on the sideline after I missed that second kick telling me just to forget about it, God’s got my back, all that stuff. That helped a lot with people encouraging me.”
Muschamp’s faith helped, too. White didn’t remember Muschamp’s words before the final kick but remembers his coach “shot me a big smile.”
“He gave me a high five, and I knew he believed in me,” White said. “I am not going to lie, my head was down a little bit (at halftime). I wasn’t doing great. I was in my locker and he came up to me and told me it was going to come down to me and he was right. When he said that, it really lit a spark in me.”
When Louisiana Tech’s final desperation kickoff return was stopped, White raced to the Williams-Brice student section where he sat during game’s last year, a regular USC student before walking on to the team, and dove into the stands.
Bentley, White’s roommate, was happy to see him celebrate after a tough start. White missed two kicks against Kentucky last week, both from more than 50 yards.
“Certainly, I didn’t get a lot of love (on social media) after last game and deservedly so. But it really comes down to the last kick and I was able to do well,” White said.
Bentley never had in doubt, he insisted after the game.
“All week he was down,” Bentley said. “I was like, ‘Dude, it wasn’t your fault. We all could have played better, and you’re going to have to make one for us.’ He really rebounded in a big way this week in practice and even during the game, kept his confidence, just kept battling. He epitomizes today what it took for us to win. He just kept battling through adversity and found a way to get it done and what’s what we did.”